Stem Cell Collection

The importance of stem cells from the cord blood

The umbilical cord contains powerful stem cells that have been used to regenerate healthy blood and immune systems. Cord blood stem cells have been used in more than 35,000 transplants worldwide. Doctors are also researching cord blood as potential treatment for conditions that currently have no cure. Stem cells are able to transform into other types of cells in the body to create new growth and development. They are the building block of the immune system. The transformation of these cells provides physicians with a way to treat leukemia and some inherited health disorders.If parents do not decide to collect the stem cells, they are discarded as medical waste, if not collected at birth. Usually the volume of stem cells collected is quite small, so these cells are usually used for children or small adults. So, the stem cells are frozen and stored by cord blood banks or programs until they are needed.

In some hospitals, pregnant women are asked (or if they already know about the stem cells collection, they are already decided if they should do it or not, and have already chosen the cord blood bank) if they would consent to having their cord blood cells collected. 

The umbilical cord is clamped and cut immediately after a baby is born. Cells can be collected from the umbilical cord before or after the placenta (afterbirth) is delivered. The collected cells are sent to a cord blood bank chosen by the parents, where specially trained technicians test the cells and freeze them until needed for transplantation (when parents chose a private bank, the cells can be used only for family members which are compatible). These precious cells that may otherwise have been thrown away can potentially save a life. Unfortunately, not everywhere on the globe, this method is used, and just a few hospitals do this practice if they are financially supported. 

Anyway, there are pros and cons regarding this procedure, because people have different opinions and do not believe in their benefic role, or, do not believe in the banks that stock them, because of the collapse risks. People need insurances, but we don't know in our lives if we'll ever get sick or we'll need the stocked cells we've paid for. For me, it's like a life insurance, or a car insurance: we never know if we'll have an accident, but we still pay for that insurance. 

Should we collect stem cells from the cord blood at childbirth, or not?

Parents usually think of alot of aspects, and here we talk about their financial possibilities (stocking the stem cells involves great costs, the enrolment fee and the collection and storage cost for at  least one year, then, the annual fee, depending of each stocking bank), the trust in the respective bank, etc. It is important to read carefully the contract between you and the bank, to know what are its conditions, and also, it is good to check if the cord blood bank has any accreditation. Otherwise, parents should donate the stem cells to other families who need it and have serious health problems.

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