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What is Cord Blood Banking?

On » Saturday, February 19, 2011 //
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Stem cell research is a relatively new technology and it primarily deals with working with the most primitive human cells (stem cells) and developing them into any of the 220 variants of cells in the human body. Where do we find these stem cells? When a baby is born, the cord blood is a rich source for these stem cells. The cord blood is nothing but the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and the placenta once the baby is born.

(Courtesy: Internet)
These stem cells are a very rich source of the blood cells in the human body. Till now bone marrow was seen as a good source of stem cells and bone marrow transplant was 'the' treatment in many blood disorders in the younger population. But due to the recent advances in clinical research revolving around cord blood stem cell research it is proved that cord blood is the most important source for blood stem cells as far as the quality and the therapeutic approach is considered. This blood can be easily retrieved from the umbilical cord without causing any harm to the child. Later it can be stored in approved bank centres and can be used at any point of time to replenish the stem cells in various medical disorders.

Thus cord blood banking is just like an insurance by saving it for the future, if need arises. It is a one in a lifetime opportunity as the blood has to be collected and processed within 10 minutes of the child-birth. It is much advisable for those parents who themselves have the disorder or have a family history of the blood disorders. It has nothing to do with the mode of delivery, whether normal or cesarean. 

The process:
1. The medical staff usually has a specialised kit for collecting the cord blood.  Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and the blood from the cord is collected in a bag that comes along with the kit. Some doctors advise to do this before the placenta is delivered where as some think its insignificant.

2.  The mother's blood is also collected and lab tested for any infectious diseases.

3. The baby's and  the mother's blood are then labeled and transferred to the processing unit. Part of the umbilical cord is also collected (10-25 cms) in the cord tissue collection containers which is usually done by the obstetrician.

4. Then all the samples are kept in the kit box along with the frozen gel packs and sent to the lab.

5. An array of tests are conducted on the fetal blood, the mother's blood and the cord tissue. There are certain eligibility criteria to which the samples have to go through and accordingly the samples are accepted, rejected or quarantined.

6. The accepted samples are harvested using a red cell depletion method aided by a chemical called 'HESPAN' which facilitates the separation of red cells from the white cells. This is further subjected to centrifugation for more accurate results. The cord tissue is washed, minced and put into tissue culture for extracting a pure mesenchymal stem cell population.

7. Once this is done, the processed sample is mixed with a cryo-preservation solvent (Dimethyl sulphoxide) which prevents the crystallization of the cells which could lead to cell membrane damage. Later the sample is preserved in a very low temperature freezer (-196 degrees centigrade). These preserved samples remain viable for decades as the recent researches have concluded.

Cord blood stem cells can be used for transplant as well as regenerative medicine. In transplant medicine, patient undergoes through chemotherapy to receive cord blood stem cells to regenerate healthy immune and blood system. In transplant medicine, availability of more cells helps the patient to recover faster reducing chances of complications considerably.

Regenerative cord blood stem cells applications are used to repair damaged organs or tissues. In regenerative treatments, availability of more cells makes multiple treatments at a time possible. Today, cord blood stem cells are being used widely to treat hearing loss, brain injury, Cerebral palsy, heart disease, congenital heart defects, Juvenile diabetes, liver disease, orthopedic injury and spinal cord injury etc.

(Disclaimer: The above post was written only from informative point of view. Kindly do not take this as an advice or a consultation. Do consult your physician for more detailed information and the pros and cons related to cord blood stem cell banking)

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