How Umbilical Cord Blood Can Save Someone’s Life
No one wants to think of a loved one becoming ill, let alone their child. But planning ahead for that possibility is something more and more families are considering, and cord blood banking is an important part of that plan for thousands of families every year. But in the process of researching stem cell medicine, it is not always easy to tell the difference between established, reliable treatments, clinical trials with realistic potential, and exaggerated promises that likely won’t end up benefitting families.
If you have been considering the decision to keep umbilical cord stem cells banked for your family, it’s important to understand how stem cell medicine actually works!
How Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Work
The stem cells that can be collected from umbilical cord blood are called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), and are the same type of stem cells that can be found in bone marrow. These cells have the ability to become any type of blood cell or blood component in the body – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, etc. – so they can directly replace needed cells in the body. But they also travel to bone marrow and signal for the production of more of these healthy cells. This in turn supports the body’s immune system and natural ability to overcome illness. These properties give HSCs the ability to be used as a powerful treatment and also immense potential for the future.
When Were Stem Cells First Used for Treatment?
Bone marrow stem cells were first used to treat leukemia in 1956 by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, and it would be years before the discovery that cord blood contains the same type of stem cells.
The first cord blood transplant was performed in Paris in 1988 by Dr. Eliane Gluckman. The transplant helped successfully treat a six-year-old American boy with Fanconi anemia, a rare, serious inherited blood disorder that can lead to bone marrow failure and other blood disorders, including leukemias, which can lead to death.
What types of conditions can these cells help treat?
Today, these stem cells are FDA-approved to treat close to 100 other conditions, including leukemias, lymphomas, anemias, metabolic disorders, and more. Many of these conditions are life-threatening, especially without appropriate treatment. If a stem cell transplant is required, umbilical cord blood can save someone’s life.
The future has also never looked brighter. These cells are in advanced clinical trials to establish treatments and therapies for a number of other potentially life-threatening conditions, including diabetes, cancers, and autoimmune conditions, as well as other conditions that can impact quality of life like rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, and some severe cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Making your decision
We think it’s important to be clear that there is no guarantee stem cells will ever be required for treatment, although with breakthroughs in medicine, the odds of developing a condition that can be treated with these stem cells is only likely to increase. Just over thirty years ago these treatments were entirely untested, but now breakthroughs are occurring – just recently, these cells became the standard-of-care for a type of treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis (MS).
For parents who decide they do not wish to bank their newborn’s stem cells privately, for the sole use of their family, we do recommend considering donating umbilical cord blood stem cells. We think every family should strongly consider their options and the possibility that they may someday want access to these cells, but it is important that these valuable cells not be discarded as medical waste.
If you’d like to learn more about banking your baby’s cord blood and its incredible stem cells, contact us or give us a call at 866-503-6005.
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