Expectant parents are faced with a number of decisions before the birth of a baby, among them whether to collect the baby’s umbilical cord blood at birth.
As July is Cord Blood Awareness Month, Netcells has put together a helpful guide to cord blood, stem cells, and why the decision to bank is increasingly important.
What are stem cells?
Stem Cells are the cells that make up the embryo and are the original building blocks of life. Stem Cells develop into various cell types in the body, such as skin, cartilage, nerves, blood cells, muscle, and bone.
Stem Cells are abundant in the umbilical cord blood and tissue and can easily be collected at the birth of the baby (less invasive than harvesting them later in life). They are normally discarded as medical waste, making their collection free of moral, ethical and religious concerns.
What is cord blood?
The cord blood is rich in haematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells used to treat over 80 blood-related diseases. Cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells for the regeneration of bone marrow and can be used to replace diseased cells with healthy new cells and rebuild an individual’s blood and immune system.
Cord blood is collected immediately after the birth of your baby by your Gynaecologist/Doctor or Midwife. The umbilical cord is clamped and cut, a needle is inserted into the umbilical vein, and blood is collected into a sterile collection bag. Cord blood collection is quick, safe and painless for both mother and baby. Approximately 80-100ml of blood needs to be collected for successful storage.
What is cord tissue?
The cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are stem cells that give rise to the connective tissues of the body, i.e. skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, nerve and fat. MSCs are being employed in research environments for a wide variety of aesthetic and medical conditions. Cord tissue is collected after the cord blood has been collected and the placenta has been delivered. A 10-15cm piece of the umbilical cord is cut, cleaned and placed in a sterile collection tube.
What are stem cells used for?
Various international studies have found that stem cells can regenerate or facilitate the repair of cells damaged by disease, genetics or injury. In less than a generation, therapies have emerged for over 80 blood disorders and immune system conditions – such as leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases – where cord blood stem cells are used to regenerate bone marrow. There are trials underway for treatments of cerebral palsy, autism, brain injury and Type 1 diabetes.
Trials using stem cells from cord tissue are underway for skin regeneration, orthopaedics such as cartilage and bone repair, and in neurology and cardiology.
Who can use the stem cells?
Stem cells are a perfect match for the baby they are collected from, so there is no risk of rejection after the transplant.
There is also a 1 in 4 possibility that their stem cells will be a match for a sibling.
What are the chances of using the stem cells?
Umbilical cord stem cell banking is a form of medical insurance – hopefully, the stem cells are never needed. But regenerative therapies are an emerging and extremely promising area of medical science. As more therapies using stem cells are developed, the likelihood of their use increases.
What to look for in a stem cell storage provider:
- Transparent pricing – ensure upfront processing and long-term storage costs are clear. Ask about payment plans.
- International accreditation – if the laboratory processing the cord blood and cord tissue and storing the stem cells is properly accredited, stem cells can easily be transported to other countries and are more readily accepted for international trials and treatment programmes.
- Client service – a reputable stem cell storage provider will be willing and able to answer any question about the collection and storage process, welcome visits to their facility, and offer professional and caring service every step of the way.
When to decide on stem cell storage
Start considering umbilical cord stem cell banking from around 20 weeks of pregnancy to allow enough time to research providers and storage options and budget for the costs. The registration process is quick, and the collection kit can be delivered within 3-5 working days of successful registration and initial payment. Many hospitals carry emergency collection kits should the baby arrive a little earlier than planned.
What will it cost?
Netcells offers several storage options and interest-free payment plans, allowing parents to tailor-make a payment plan that suits their needs.
For more information and detailed pricing, visit the Next Biosciences website: https://nextbio.co.za/pricing-calculator/ or call 011 697 2900.