What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking is the preservation and storage of umbilical cord blood. This blood contains stem cells that can be beneficial in treating a variety of diseases and chronic medical conditions. Stem cell transfusions from cord blood are generally thought to be just as effective as more traditional bone marrow transfusions and carry a lower risk of rejection or other complications. Many parents choose to bank their infant’s cord blood because it can be used to treat siblings or other family members who suffer from certain illnesses, it can be used by the donor baby at any point in the future, or it can be donated to a compatible, non-familial recipient. Learn why it is worth considering cord blood banking below.
How is cord blood collected and stored?
The process of cord blood banking involves collecting stem cell-rich blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord immediately after birth. The umbilical cord is clamped and cut by the doctor as usual; blood is drawn out using a syringe or a specially-designed collection bag. Most banks require only a small amount of blood - about 75ml, or approximately 1/3 of a cup on average. The procedure takes just minutes and is painless for mother and baby.
After collection, the cord blood is transported to a lab where it is tested for a variety of viruses including HIV and hepatitis, typed, preserved and prepared for long-term storage. Different facilities have different requirements and procedures in place when processing and preparing cord blood. Some labs separate and remove red blood cells, while other places keep blood whole and intact. Neither method affects the blood’s viability for future use. When it’s ready to be stored, the cord blood is cooled slowly to a final storage temperature of around -190°F.
According to the vast majority of studies on the long-term viability of stored cord blood, the length of storage doesn’t have any impact on the blood’s ability to be used in the future.
How can cord blood banking help kids?
Stem cells from cord blood have been used to treat a host of medical conditions include certain childhood cancers, immune system disorders and blood diseases like sickle cell anemia. While relatives of cord blood donors are usually good - if not perfect - genetic matches for stem cell transfusion, it’s not necessary for a cord blood recipient to be a perfect match to his or her donor. Transplants can be highly successful when the match is only partial. This increases the chance of finding a suitable donor and improves a patient’s likelihood for recovery.
Unlike bone marrow transplants, cord blood transfusions carry a low risk of graft vs. host disease (GvHD), more commonly known as tissue rejection. Cord blood transplants also pose a lower risk of viral infection for recipients, especially from common viruses like Epstein-Barr (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), two of the most potentially deadly post-operative complications for transplant patients.