What is Cord Blood?

Cord blood remains in the umbilical cord after birth, and is recognized as an important source of stem cells.

During pregnancy, the blood in your baby’s umbilical cord carries nutrients and oxygen to your baby. After birth, this ‘cord blood’ remains in the umbilical cord. Previously discarded as medical waste, cord blood is now known to be a rich source of stem cells- ‘master’ cells that are capable of generating all other cells in the body.

Cord blood contains valuable stem cells

Early embryogenesis
Figure 1: The fertilized egg is the first stem cell

The fertilized egg, or ‘zygote’, is the first stem cell. The zygote divides to 2, then 4, then 8 cells, at which point is is known as an’embryo’, which eventually becomes your baby! Stem cells in an early embryo have the ability to grow into any part of the body by turning into mature, working cells such as blood, muscle and nerve cells. Once mature, cells lose the ability to divide into new cells (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Embryonic stem cells can reproduce any cell type in the body
Figure 1: Embryonic stem cells can reproduce any cell type in the body

Cord blood is already regularly needed to regenerate the blood and immune system in a number of life threatening diseases, and has been used to treat over 50 types of blood diseases with many new potential applications being developed every year.

Why Bank Cord Blood?

Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat a number of life-threatening diseases. Storing your child’s cord blood enables your family to access these important cells if they are ever needed.

Cord blood is the only non-invasive source of high quality, early-stage stem cells that are compatible with your child. As potential applications are being developed, the likelihood of potential use is increasing. Expectant parents now have the ability to store cord blood stem cells from their new baby at birth that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste, allowing their children to have access to a stem cell source if cell therapy is ever required.

Current Applications

What can cord blood be used to treat? Currently, applications are mostly limited to severe, life-threatening diseases of the blood, such as leukemia and severe autoimmune diseases.

Partial list of diseases that have been treated with cord blood to date:

Cancers

  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
  • Juvenile Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
  • Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia
  • Liposarcoma
  • Hodgkins Disease
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Refractory Anemia (RA)

Inborn Errors of Metabolism

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Erythrophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis
  • Gunther Disease
  • Histiocytic Disorders
  • Hunter Syndrome
  • Hurler Syndrome
  • Krabbe Disease
  • Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome
  • Osteopetrosis

Hematopoietic Diseases

  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
  • Diamond-Blackfan Anemia
  • Dyskeratosis Congenita
  • Fanconi Anemia
  • Kostmann Syndrome
  • Beta Thalassemia

Immune System Diseases

  • Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
  • X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disorder

 

hematopoietic

Future Applications

While cord blood is already important in the treatment of a number of life-threatening blood disorders, the most exciting use of cord blood is yet to come.

Most diseases that are considered to be ‘incurable’ result from damage to tissues and organs that are not capable of self-repair, such as nerve and muscle tissue. Examples of such diseases include heart attack, stroke, paralysis, and diabetes.

Because all cells in the body originated from stem cells, the possibility of growing new cells to repair damaged organs is being actively explored. Stem cells have already been used to successfully regrow corneal tissue in certain forms of blindness, and to regenerate segments of trachea in children born with congenital defects in this tissue. Areas of intensive research involving stem cell therapy include:

body illustration
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Muscular dystrophy

As research progresses, new developments have the potential to greatly increase the likelihood of use of cord blood stem cells in the future.

Likelihood of use. The likelihood that your child will use her or his cord blood equals the likelihood that he or she will develop a disease that requires cell therapy. While the likelihood of developing leukemia is relatively low, diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are very common.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells can only be harvested once in the lifetime of a child, and that is at the time of birth. Once the stem cells are harvested, Healthcord processes and banks them for long term storage under cryogenic conditions. These cells are readily available for your use whenever they are needed.

Banked stem cells
Bone marrow transplant
Eliminates need to find donors. Stem cells banked by you are easily accessible when needed,
Often difficult or impossible to find a matching donor, especially for ethnic minorities
The stem cells you banked are a perfect match for your child
Risk of donor graft rejection
  • Immediate Availability.  Many children in need of a stem cell transplant are unable to find a matching donor. As more cell therapy treatments become available in the future, this will become an increasing problem. Storing your baby’s cord blood will ensure that there will always be a matching stem cell source.
  •  Biological Insurance for your Family:  In addition to being a perfect match for your baby, cord blood stem cell have a high probability of being a match (50-75%) of being a suitable match for a sibling.
  • Alternative to Bone Marrow:  Unlike bone marrow or other invasive approaches to harvesting stem cells, cord blood banking is safe for both the mother and child. There is no risk or side-effect, and cord blood stem cells have unique and powerful properties that do not exist in most adult stem cells.

Cord blood banking: An ounce of prevention

The hope is that no child will ever need his or her cord blood, but cord blood banking offers the peace-of-mind that your child’s cord blood is available if he or she ever needs it. Most people purchase home insurance every year despite the small odds that their home will ever burn down because they can’t afford to buy another house, so they cannot take the chance. Similarly, expectant parents with normal pregnancies are choosing to store cord blood- because their child’s health and life is priceless, and they cannot afford to take the chance not to store it.

Combining the importance of cord blood banking with the fact that the likelihood of using cord blood is increasing every year, as well as the fact that the cost of cord blood banking over 18 years is only $2.50 per week during that time-frame- about the price of a latte at a coffee shop, and the value of cord blood banking becomes apparent. For most Canadian families, cord blood banking is both important as well as affordable.

Five minutes for a lifetime

Umbilical cord blood stem cells can only be harvested once in the lifetime of a child, and that is at the time of birth.  It takes only a few minutes to enroll online. By choosing to bank your child’s cord blood, you are making a decision that can potentially save the lives of your child and family members should they become sick in the future. Cord blood banking allows you to enjoy the security of knowing that you have given your child a distinct health advantage in life.

Once stem cells are harvested, Healthcord processes them and banks them for long term storage under cryogenic conditions. These cells are then readily available for your use. Whenever the cells are needed, they will be readily available. Stem cells in cord blood can be used for cell therapy, the use of cells to treat or cure disease

Healthcord is committed to ensuring that cord blood banking is accessible to nearly all Canadian families, and offers price plans that suit almost every need, in almost every community across Canada.

View our price plans here.

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