Cord blood research continues with promising results

Before you give birth, consider the value of cord blood. After a baby is born and the umbilical cord cut, some blood remains in the placenta and the portion of cord attached to it. Cord blood is one of the fastest growing sources of stem cells used in pediatric transplants, and the medical community uses cord blood to treat at least 80 diseases today.

Since it contains blood-forming stem cells, also called hematopoietic cells, it’s used as an alternative to bone marrow in organ transplants and to treat diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, blood-disorders, and bone marrow failure. With these health benefits in mind, researchers are trying to find ways to make the most of each precious cord blood donation. A new stem cell harvesting technology presented at the 2014 American Society of Pediatric/Hematology/Oncology association gives parents the opportunity to collect twice the number of stem cells from the cord.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 20,000 stem cell transplants came from cord blood last year, and research on what else cord blood can treat is being conducted every day. Duke University has a trial testing whether these stem cells can repair damaged cells from cerebral palsy and Type 1 diabetes. Other research focuses on cord tissue and whether it can be used to treat lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Parents have the option of storing your child’s cord blood and stem cells to fight future diseases or donating it to our local cord blood bank to help other families who may not have access to it. Moms should talk to your OB/GYN about the benefits of saving your cord blood versus donating it to a public bank and what will work best for your family.

I’ve recommended banking cord blood to some of my patients, but it’s a completely personal decision. When parents ask for my input, I take into consideration the family history, genetic makeup, and whether they already have or plan to have more children.

If you decide to donate your cord blood, be sure to research both private and public storage. As the significance of cord blood research has grown, the number of facilities has increased and unfortunately not all will be reputable. You can also ask your OB/GYN about banks we would recommend based on our experience with them. Methodist Hospital, Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, and North Central Baptist Hospital also participate in the Texas Cord Blood Bank program.

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