July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month
One look at our blog and it’s easy to see we like to talk about cord blood and its valuable stem cells. As a cord blood bank it makes sense, but we also see the transforming power cord blood stem cells can have on a life so we know the importance of generating awareness on the topic. That’s why we’re happy to thank the National Health Information Center (NHIC) for dedicating the whole month of July to cord blood awareness. Educating expectant parents and others about the value of cord blood stem cells may help keep this precious resource from being thrown away as medical waste. If you’d like to spread the word or find out more yourself, here’s a quick primer:
Today, stem cells are mainly used in the treatment of disease and in tissue regeneration. They largely come from one of three sources – cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood. Cord blood stem cells are found in the blood of the umbilical cord. With their instant availability at birth and demonstrated utility, cord blood is quickly becoming a well known source of stem cells by transplant physicians. Learn more in our Stem Cells 101 blog post.
After a baby is born, and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the blood left in the umbilical cord can be collected and the stem cells extracted and stored for potential use in a future medical application. Today, there are nearly 80 conditions that can be treated with cord blood and experimental treatments using cord blood for cerebral palsy and Type 1 diabetes are underway. In fact, over 210 ViaCord families have used their saved cord blood in a transplant or infusion.
Ways to store cord blood stem cells
Cord blood stem cells can be stored in two ways: with a public bank or a private family bank, like ViaCord. Public banks take cord blood donations from a limited number of hospitals around the country. The cord blood is stored and listed as part of a registry that make it available to anyone with a medical need, provided they are an adequate match. Families who donate their child’s cord blood are not guaranteed access to their blood should they ever need it. They would have to go through the same process as others to access a donated cord blood unit, and pay to retrieve the unit, which at this time can cost up to $35,000.1
Private cord banks, like ViaCord, store your baby’s cord blood stem cells exclusively for your family. If a medical need arises, you would have immediate access to those cord blood stem cells. In addition to exclusivity, there are a few other benefits to privately banking:
- If a stem cell transplant is needed, there is an increased chance of finding an acceptable match within your own family.
- Transplants using cord blood from a family member are proven to be more successful than transplants using cord blood from a non-relative. 2
- Access to emerging treatments, such as those focused on cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes, require a patient to use his or her own cord blood stem cells.
And with private banking the cord blood can be collected anywhere you deliver your baby. A kit containing the necessary materials to perform a cord blood collection is mailed directly to you. Simply bring the kit to the hospital on the big day, a medical professional will conduct the cord blood collection and the unit will be shipped to a processing facility where the cord blood is stored.
Raising awareness one person at a time
There are many ways that you can help raise awareness about cord blood. Here are just a few:
- Take a few minutes to pass along your knowledge about the importance of cord blood stem cells. You never know the impact your words could have on someone’s life.
- Let expecting friends and family members know about their options when it comes to cord blood banking: donating or saving it – doing something means that precious resource of stem cells won’t be thrown away!
- ViaCord is on Facebook and Twitter. Come find us and join the conversation!
No matter what you do, every little bit can help shed light on the life-saving potential of cord blood stem cells.
TIME magazine. “New Post-partum Trend: Mailing in Your Cord Blood.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2004122,00.html
Gluckman, et al., New England Journal of Medicine 1997, pp. 373-381