When a child is born, some blood remains in the placenta and umbilical cord. This blood is known as umbilical cord blood. This blood is very important to medical science as it contains hematopoietic stem cells which can form white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. If extracted and stored in cord blood banks, it can be used later to treat cancer and other diseases related to the blood and immune system.
How is cord blood collected?
Umbilical cord blood is collected as soon as the newborn baby’s umbilical cord has been severed in a cord blood unit. It is extracted from the neonatal end of the cord within 10 minutes of the baby’s birth. Remaining cord blood and stem cells are collected from the placental end, and then the placenta is further process in a stem cell laboratory for additional stem cells. The minimum amount of cord blood required by the cord blood bank is 75 ml.
After extraction, the extracted cord blood is subjected to viral testing that includes tests for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Tests are also done to examine nucleated blood group antigen (ABO and Rh), cell count, cell viability, molecule cluster, bacterial growth and fungal growth.
How is cord blood stored?
After collection, the cord blood is taken to the lab, processed and preserved by cooling below the freezing point of water. This process of cooling is called cryopreservation. There are different methods of cyropreserving blood. Some methods require the red blood cells to be separated and removed while others require them to be kept intact. After the cord blood unit has been slowly cooled to -90o Celsius, it is placed in liquid nitrogen tank to keep it frozen at -196o Celsius. The slow freezing process keeps the cells alive. There are still differing views as to the optimal procedure for cryopreservation.
Where is cord blood stored?
Cord blood is stored in cord blood banks which have special facilities for storing cord blood. Parents can choose to store their child’s cord blood either in a public bank or a private bank. Storing in a public bank is considered a donation for use by anyone who is in need. Once donated, the blood is stripped of all identifying information so that the donors cannot retrieve their own blood. Storing the blood in a private bank makes it available to the donors anytime they are in need because the identifying information is kept intact. Private banks normally charge $1,000 – $2,000 to preserve the blood.
What are the benefits of preserving cord blood?
Cryopreserving cord blood makes this stem cell rich blood can cure terminal diseases and save life later. The preserved blood can be used for the treatment of cancer, blood disorders and genetic diseases related to the immune system. One special area of use is treatment of leukemia when a suitable donor for bone marrow transplantation is not available.