Cord blood might not be the most familiar of terms to most people but mention stem cells to them and most make the immediate connection. With July being Cord Blood Awareness Month, we want to share information about this fascinating topic and to give pregnant women and mothers-to-be a chance to make an informed decision on the subject.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells can be viewed as the raw material of our bodies—the building blocks that can divide and form more cells under the right conditions. When that happens, they can either create more stem cells or become cells with specific functions, including healthy replacements for damaged components like brain cells, heart muscle cells, or bone cells. These ‘customized’ cells can be used to replaced diseased cells and heal people from all manner of diseases.
What is Cord Blood?
Cord blood is more or less exactly what it sounds like: blood that remains in the placenta and the umbilical cord after a child is born. Cord blood is the breeding ground for stem cells, and it is possible to collect them and put them in cryogenic storage after a child is born. The mother who has given birth to the child in question then has a choice: to donate the cord blood and have it stored in a cryo-bank for no charge, or to store it for their own family’s use in a private, paid cryo-bank.
There is no right or wrong choice. Every woman has the right to decide what to do with her own body, including the stem cells left behind when a baby emerges from the womb.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Much like the ability to store frozen embryos, cord blood can be kept cryogenically frozen for long periods of time. There are both public and private cord blood banks that can host your cord blood whether you wish to donate it or keep it for your own family. If it is properly collected, it can be frozen and used at a later date to help sick people fight off their illnesses, be they strangers or members of your own family.
What Can Cord Blood Do?
Stem-cell research and therapy have been met with many scientific and ethical battles over the years. But in the short time that it has been active in the medical community, it has made remarkable advancements, including:
- Curing leukemia: Since the 1990s, thousands of adults and children have received cord blood transplants. In a comparison between cord blood transplant recipients and bone-marrow transplant recipients, the cord-blood recipients reported fewer relapses and longer lives.
- Fight cerebral palsy: In the past 10 years, clinical trials treating cerebral palsy with stem cells have shown significant improvement with patients compared to control groups.
There is plenty to be discussed when talking about the use of stem cells to revitalize cells in other people. If you are leaning towards allowing the collection of cord blood after delivering a child, check out websites like Parents’ Guide to Cord Blood and CordBlood.com to learn more about how, when, and why you might donate.
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