Cord blood 101: What you need to know about cord blood banking

Topics covered in this article
  • What is cord blood banking?
  • What are stem cells?
  • How are stem cells being used?
  • Clinical trials exploring the therapeutic potential of stem cells
  • What is stem cell therapy?
  • How cord blood banking works
  • Why you should bank stem cells?

This article will provide you more information about stem cells, cord blood, what cord blood banking involves and the science behind this technology.

What is cord blood banking?

When a baby is born, some blood gets left behind in the umbilical cord. This used to be discarded as medical waste. But today we know the cord itself and the blood left over are valued sources of stem cells.

Stem cells are extremely valuable because they can give rise to all kinds of different cells in the body. They are also used to treat different diseases.

With banking, you choose to preserve newborn stem cells from cord blood and cord tissue, so your child and other family members can access them anytime in the future.

What are stem cells? 

Stem cells are early-stage cells with the potential to grow into any type of cell in the body. This means they are useful for repairing damaged cells, rebuilding tissue, and helping our bodies heal.

Cord blood and cord tissue are sources of at least two different types of stem cells.

Cord blood is a source of hematopoietic stem cells. These cells produce different types of blood cells and immune cells in our bodies.  They are useful for treating blood-related diseases and for replenishing the immune system.

Cord tissue contains another type of stem cell known as mesenchymal stem cells. They act as a medical surveillance team to repair and regenerate the body in special ways. These stem cells are being explored for their potential for treating diseases involving organs other than the blood system and the immune system.

How are stem cells being used?

Doctors have already been using cord blood stem cells for more than 30 years to treat over 80 life-threatening diseases, including cancers, blood disorders and genetic diseases.

Stem cell research is one of the fastest-growing branches of medical technology. Over 1000 clinical trials exploring the use of both cord blood and cord tissue stem cells to treat diseases like osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, breast cancer, liver failure and arthritis.

Let’s just say scientists are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of developing new treatments for diseases using stem cells.

Clinical trials exploring the therapeutic potential of stem cells 

The STAR heart study

The STAR heart study is one of the largest clinical trials that looked at using stem cells to treat patients with heart disease. It involved 391 patients with chronic heart failure. All of them had experienced a heart attack 3 to 8 years prior to the study.

This study showed that patients who received stem cells experienced significant improvement even 5 years after treatment.

The graph highlighted here looks at the ejection fraction, which is a measure of how much blood is pumped out by the left ventricle with each contraction. Higher numbers correspond to better efficiency.

It shows that patients who received stem cells – shown in blue – experienced an improvement in heart function after treatment. They were also able to maintain these improvements in the long-term.

What’s more, there was also a significant decrease in the long-term mortality rates of patients who received stem cells after a heart attack. The average mortality rate of the group that received stem cells was 0.75% per year compared to 3.68% per year seen in the control group that did not receive stem cells.

In summary, the STAR-heart study suggests that stem cell therapy can improve heart function, quality of life and enhance the survival rate in people with chronic heart failure.

Type 2 diabetes

The next set of clinical trials involve type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease linked to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels.

People with type 2 diabetes are unable to either produce insulin or their bodies have stopped responding to insulin, so their blood sugar levels remain constantly high. The data shown here come from 11 clinical trials involving 386 patients with type 2 diabetes treated with stem cell therapy.

Shown here is a summary of data looking at insulin requirements after 12 months of therapy. As you can see, most patients showed significant improvement – for example, 31% of the patients who received mesenchymal stem cells no longer required insulin injections.

Based on these clinical trials, we can predict that perhaps one-day stem cell therapy may become a standard of care for treating diabetes.

Will your child need his/her stem cells?

As discussed above, many ongoing exciting clinical trials investigating the use of stem cells to treat some of the most prevalent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. In the lifetime of your child, there is an 87% chance that he or she will go on to develop at least one of the six diseases listed here.

Saving healthy stem cells now can improve your child’s chance of having access to the revolutionary stem cell therapies that become available in their lifetime.

Next we will highlight why having an accessible and perfectly matched stem cell sample will be advantageous for your baby in the future.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy can be categorized into two groups: allogeneic therapy and autologous therapy.

Allogeneic stem cell therapy involves finding a matching donor, so a healthy stem cell sample can be acquired.

Autologous therapy, on the other hand, involves replacing the stem cells of a patient with their own healthy stem cells.

Your baby’s cord blood and cord tissue stem cells may also be a close match to other family members. So if a grandparent, an uncle, or a parent needs a transplant, there is a high probability there will be a closely matched sample available.

How cord blood and cord tissue banking works

Cord blood banking is easier than you think – it involves 3 simple steps.

Start by registering with Healthcord. You can do this online or over the phone. We recommend registering 4-6 weeks ahead of your due date. If your due date happens to be sooner than that, there is no need to worry.  Our kits ship out 2 days within registration, so we have you covered.

We can also arrange express shipping to your delivery location, all you have to do is let us know.

Once you register, we will ship a collection kit right to your house.

Be sure to fill out the paperwork inside and let your healthcare provider know that you will be banking stem cells. On the big day, bring your kit with you and give it to your delivery team. We will take care of the rest.

At the hospital

Your delivery team will collect the samples using the kit provided. This is done right after the baby is born and the umbilical cord is clamped. Usually, the umbilical cord itself and the blood left over are thrown away as medical waste.

But if you chose to save these valuable stem cells, both the cord and the blood left over will be collected and preserved, so you have access to them in the future.

In the lab

In the lab, your newborn stem cells sample goes through several different processing steps. They are checked for sterility, feasibility and go through an infectious disease check before stem cells are extracted.

As a final step, we look at the stem cell yield before these precious samples are cryogenically preserved using computer-operated control rate freezing.

Once your baby’s samples are safely stored in next-generation vapor phase tanks, you will receive an emailing highlighting stem cell yield and all the other information you need to know about sample retrieval.

What is vapour phase storage?

We also guarantee the exclusive use of next-generation vapour phase storage tanks, the most advanced and safest technology in cryogenic storage.

Vapour phase tanks eliminate the risk of contamination associated with older liquid storage technology.

With liquid storage, all samples are stored in the same pool of liquid nitrogen. So if a bag has a crack, all other bags in the same tank can be contaminated.

In vapour phase storage, samples are suspended in liquid nitrogen vapour, so the bags never touch the same liquid. This eliminates the possibility of contamination through shared liquids.

Healthcord provides a 100% guarantee that your baby’s samples will be stored in a latest vapour phase tank. You can rest assured these samples will be safely stored for the lifetime of your baby.

Why choose Healthcord?

Healthcord is one of the largest and oldest cord blood banks in Canada. We work with a network of over 450 hospitals across Canada. We are 100% Canadian and take pride in never sending our samples outside of Canada for processing or banking.

Our laboratory is Health Canada inspected and approved, and FDA registered, AABB Accredited, and participates in the College of American Pathologist Proficiency Testing Program. This ensures the highest quality laboratory testing and processing for your baby’s valuable stem cell sample.

Why bank stem cells?

As we highlighted, stem cells are extremely valuable. Both cord blood and tissue are valuable sources of stem cells.

More than 80 diseases are currently treated with cord blood stem cells. But with clinical trials around the world looking at both cord blood and cord tissue stem cells, this list is only going to keep growing.

Usually, cord blood and tissue are discarded after birth. Banking provides you with the choice to save the precious stem cells for future use. And the process of banking is simple and non-invasive.

Give the gift that lasts a lifetime by choosing to bank your baby’s newborn stem cells.