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Why Store Cells From Cord Blood?

Stem cells from cord blood provide an additional opportunity for treating certain serious diseases over the child's life span.

The use of hematopoietic stem cells (found in cord blood, bone marrow, and embryos) is approved as standard treatment for a long list of such diseases. If a transplant is needed, the physician has several alternatives: allogenic transplantation (from another donor to the patient), if a compatible donor can be found; or autologous transplantation of stem cells from the umbilical cord, bone marrow, or peripheral blood. In autologous transplants, the patient's own stem cells are used.

Treatment is selected on a case-by-case basis, depending exclusively on the circumstances of the individual case. Currently, most transplants use stem cells from the bone marrow of either the patient or a family member. However, when considering this fact, one must remember that most people to date have not had an opportunity to bank their own umbilical cord cells at birth.

There is a difference between the hematopoietic stem cells found in cord blood and those from bone marrow, and this difference can be a deciding factor as to which type should be used. Stem cells collected at birth are more primitive with respect to tissue compatibility, biologically younger, and less affected by electromagnetic and environmental influences.

In contrast to donor stem cells, autologous stem cells (from the umbilical cord or elsewhere) are fully compatible with the patient, so there is no risk of rejection if a transplant is done. In some cases, however, an autologous transplant is not indicated, because the infused cells may have the same genetic defects and/or tendencies that underlie the disease, and because the relapse rate is higher. Before proceeding with a transplant, the doctor will use all available tools and analyses in order to make the best possible decision.

Storing stem cells from cord blood gives the doctor an additional alternative if a transplant should ever become absolutely necessary in the future.

Why Store Umbilical Cord Tissue?

The umbilical cord contains predominantly mesenchymal stem cells, which can regenerate damaged tissues such as liver, heart muscle, nerves, bones, and cartilage.

Mesenchymal stem cells are one of today's most important avenues of research and are making huge advances in regenerative medicine possible almost daily.
At present, there are many ongoing promising and internationally recognized studies on stem cell use in treatments for diseases such as diabetes and heart attacks, and in heart valve reconstruction. So storing mesenchymal stem cells also may also provide an additional opportunity for treatment in the near future.

  • European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, The EMBT activity survey 2009: trends over the past 5 years, 28 febbraio 2011
  • A. Hayani, E. Lampeter et al., First Report of Autologous Cord Blood Transplantation in the Treatment of a Child With Leukemia, Pediatrics 2007;119;296-300 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2006-1009Bone Marrow Transplant, 36(7):575-90, ottobre 2005
  • E. Gluckman, A. Ruggeri et al., Family-directed umbilical cord blood banking, Haematologica, 2011; 96(11);
  • H.E. Broxmeyer, M.R. Lee et al., Hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, generation of induced pluripotent stem cells, and isolation of endothelial progenitors from 21- to 23.5-year cryopreserved cord blood, Blood, 2011 May 5;117(18):4773-7;
Page created on: 03/09/2012
Last modified on: 03/09/2012
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