The growing importance of Cord Blood

There are many decisions that you make when having a child. Birth plans, names, clothes and strollers. From the big to the small, you start making choices as soon as you’re pregnant. Thanks to advances in medicine, another choice that parents are making in increasing numbers is to store their child’s cord blood.

What is cord blood? 

Cord blood is the stem cell rich umbilical fluid that has connected you and your baby throughout your pregnancy. Easy to collect after the actual birth, the fluid has ten times more stem cells than bone marrow and has the potential to treat an ever expanding range of diseases in later life.

Why save it? 

Up until relatively recently this precious fluid was simply discarded after birth, however, with advances in stem cell research showing hugely positive results for stem cell treatment, more and more parents are opting to store the cord blood.

How is it collected?

Collecting the cord blood is a very quick and painless procedure. Once the umbilical cord is clamped, a needle is inserted into the vein in the cord and several millimetres of blood are withdrawn.

Treatments

Researchers are discovering new ways in which cord blood can treat diseases all the time.

Diabetes

Latest research has shown encouraging results in preventing Type 1 diabetes using cord blood treatment. At the World Advanced Therapies & Regenerative Medicine Congress this year, Dr Maria Craig spoke about her work in this field. While as yet there is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes, stem cells have been shown to prevent and cure the disease in mice.

Tests using cord blood transfusions on children with diabetes are showing promising results. The hope is that a re infusion of patients cord blood stem cells will reset the immune systems of these children, before the auto-immune damage leads to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes

Multiple Sclerosis

A recent clinical trial involving cord blood stem cells in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis concluded that it is a safe and effective therapy for the disease.

Current treatments for MS are able to reduce flare ups and the progression of the disease, however, they are not able to repair the damage to nerve cells or the myelin sheath, the protective layer around the nerve fibres.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are adult stem cells found in multiple tissues, such as umbilical cord, bone marrow, and fat.

Diverse clinical studies have shown that that MSCs can safely treat immune and inflammatory conditions such as MS. Research has also shown improved cognitive and motor function using MSCs.

The trial noted that a major advantage of treatment using MSCs is the longevity of the results. After one year improvements were still evident in comparison with traditional MS medications that have to be taken daily or weekly.

Cerebral Palsy

In a 2017 study conducted at Duke University Medical Center, Dr Joanne Kurtzberg evaluated the safety and feasibility of cord blood to treat Cerebral Palsy and other neurological conditions.

Participants were given a range of doses depending on how many stem cells had been stored for them. The doses ranged from 10 million cells to 50 million cells per approximately two pounds of body weight.

Results found that those who were given high dose infusions made notable improvements after one year. Dr Kurtzberg found that the progressions in high level infusion patients were 30% higher than would have been expected for age and level of function.

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