IntroductionAs a parent-to-be, the list of things that you need to do and learn about in preparation for the arrival of your new baby can be daunting. And the availability of what is commonly referred to as “cord blood banking,” while an extraordinary opportunity, may feel like just one more thing to add to that list. But Americord offers all of the cord blood banking information you need in one place, with easy to understand explanations so that you can to make the right decision for your family and their future medical treatment opportunities without putting more work on your plate. Stem Cells 101 is a useful reference tool and summary of what "cord blood banking" is from a scientific point of view, but in plain language.
At Americord, we are experts so that you don’t have to be. We’ll explain to you how stem cells work for treating more than 80 diseases, as well as why it may be the right choice for you and your family. The future of health is here, and the decision to safeguard your baby’s and family’s well-being for the long term is one that you can only make once in a lifetime, at the birth of your child. So don’t waste another moment wondering about cord blood banking pros and cons. Let us teach you the basics and help you to understand how the modern technology involved in the preservation of stem cells from cord blood, cord tissue and placenta tissue is already saving and improving lives. We invite you to review Americord’s cord blood banking information, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any and all questions or for further information about our world-class, affordable services. We are glad to hear from you at any time and look forward to providing you with all the cord blood banking information you need.
Americord blood cord registry is pioneering a new technique that will provide more treatment options to a greater variety of patients in the near future. We are an active member of the cord blood professional community and happily await your inquiries.
Dr. Robert Dracker, MD, MHA, MBA
Executive Medical Director, Americord Registry
What Are Stem Cells?A stem cell is a cell that has the ability to renew itself and differentiate into other kinds of cells. There are many types of stem cells, some of which are more valuable from a medical point of view than others. The most therapeutically valuable stem cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, are found in the greatest numbers in the cord blood and placenta of newborns. There are two primary reasons for preserving your newborn baby’s stem cells: (i) access to existing and emerging stem cell therapies if you or a family member needs them; and (ii) the promise of regenerative medicine. Stem cells have been used to treat over 80 serious diseases and have the potential to treat conditions that have no cure today.
HLA MatchingMatching refers to six proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) that appear on the surface of white blood cells and other tissues in the body. These six HLA points, or loci, determine tissue compatibility between a patient and a donor. Although a perfect match would be best, studies have shown that transplants using stem cells derived from cord and placental blood are successful, even when only three of the six loci match. With cord blood and placenta derived stem cells, the immune cells are less mature than those in bone marrow, and therefore siblings are twice as likely to be able to use stem cells from each other's cord blood or placenta as compared to bone marrow.
The History of Stem Cell TransplantsThe first cord blood stem cell transplant was performed in 1988. Since then, more than 15,000 cord blood transplants have occurred as of the end of 2009. The opportunity for expectant families to collect and store their newborn's umbilical cord blood stem cells has only been widely available since late 1995.
In 2009, scientists discovered an abundance of viable stem cells in the cord blood that is found in the placenta that can be extracted for stem cell transplantation. The cord blood in the placenta contains vastly more stem cells than the cord blood from the umbilical cord does. This is a major breakthrough because the amount of stem cells available from umbilical cord blood alone is generally only enough to successfully treat patients who weigh less than approximately 65 pounds if doctors follow best practices guidelines. The larger amount of stem cells available from the placenta’s cord blood has led doctors to believe they will be able to cure even more people of sickle cell, leukemia, and other disorders.
Doctors may choose to use umbilical cord blood and placenta blood over bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells because of better survival outcomes. Placenta blood and umbilical cord blood are easier to match, more quickly available, and have less graft-versus-host disease ("GVHD").
More tolerant matching
A close match between the patient and the donor or cord blood unit can improve a patient's outcome after transplant. Even though a closely genetically matched cord blood unit is preferred, clinical studies suggest the match may not have to be as close as is needed for marrow or peripheral blood transplants.
Bone marrow is difficult to match because it requires a "perfect match" between the donor and recipient. Cord blood immune cells, however, are less mature than in bone marrow and can be successfully used even when there is only a half-match. This means there is more opportunity for transplants between family members when cord blood is banked. Some studies have shown that overall survival rates for transplants between relatives are more than double that of transplants from unrelated donors.
More quickly available
Banking your baby's placental and umbilical cord blood ensures that these stem cells can be immediately available if they are needed for treatment. A cord blood unit can be selected and delivered to the transplant center in less than 2 weeks whereas it can take 2 months or more to find an unrelated marrow or peripheral blood donor. Your doctor may choose cord blood if you need a transplant quickly. Early treatment of many illnesses may minimize disease progression.
Less graft-versus-host disease
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a common complication after an allogeneic transplant (which uses cells from a family member or unrelated donor). GVHD can range from mild to life threatening. Studies have found that after a cord blood transplant, fewer patients get GVHD than after marrow or peripheral blood transplants. Patients in the studies who did get GVHD after a cord blood transplant tended to get less severe cases.