What is a stem cell?
A stem cell has the ability to regenerate and differentiate into different types of cells. The most valuable of these cells are the hematopoietic cells, commonly found in the cord blood and placenta of newborns. These cells can transform into red and white blood cells and have been proven to be therapeutic and successful in curing serious diseases.
Why are stem cells so beneficial?
The stem cells contained in a newborn baby’s umbilical cord are capable of treating life threatening diseases or regenerating damaged tissue. Cord blood stem cells today are treating nearly 80 diseases. While many of these diseases are genetic and are not treatable using your own cord blood, a matched cord blood unit from a sibling or family member is often the best method of treatment. The key in using the cells is to transplant them into the body after chemotherapy and/or radiation. These treatments are effective in killing cancerous cells and, unfortunately, stem cells.
How does it work?
When a patient is receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments, a stem cell transplant will be placed into the body in order to reconstitute a patient’s blood and immune system. Stem cells from the umbilical cord have been used to treat patients less than 65 pounds and can ensure a newborn’s health if diseases are diagnosed early.
How long has this treatment been around?
The opportunity for families to collect and store their newborn’s cord blood has been available since 1995, and has since been encouraged more and more for expectant mothers. Cord blood stem cells are also being studied for regenerative medicine for cerebral palsy, type-1 diabetes and autism. One day, doctors are hoping to cure the entire family and people worldwide using stem cells.
*Most of these 80 diseases are genetic disorders, which would be treated using cord blood from a sibling. Emerging treatments today are performed using the baby’s own cord blood. Although the potential use of cord blood is expanding rapidly, the odds that a family member without a defined risk will need to use their child’s cord blood are low. There is no guarantee that the cord blood will be a match for a family member or will provide a cure. Autologous cord blood stem cells will not guarantee suitable treatment for all inherited genetic diseases.
**All research using cord tissue stem cells is in preclinical studies. Medical treatments using family banked cord tissue are not available today; there is no guarantee that therapies will be developed in the future.
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