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12 February 2016

Why you should store your newborn's umbilical cord stem cells

Collecting and storing stem cells from your baby's umbilical cord and blood could save your child's life down the line as cord tissue is set to become a vital component to the future treatment of many diseases that have mystified the healthcare industry for decades.

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With cord blood stem cell transplants already having changed and saved thousands of lives around the world, opting to bank cord blood and tissue stem cells gives new parents the opportunity to take some responsibility for the future health of their new baby and potentially the health of their family.

Cord blood stem cells are already being used to treat more than 75 diseases, including numerous types of malignancies, anaemias, inherited metabolic disorders and deficiencies of the immune system.

As cord blood stem cells will remain a perfect match for your child, they are potentially the best investment parents can make when it comes to the future health of their child. 

When it comes to blood cancers and other blood disorders, blood stem cell transplants have been the standard of care for more than 50 years and is in some instances, curative.  

And while on the surface this may seem a viable solution, South Africa, despite its diverse ethnic make-up, has no public cord blood stem cell bank, which makes the likelihood of finding a matching donor challenging.

Erna West, General Manager for Salveo Swiss Biotechnology, says for 70% of patients who need a unrelated donor to treat one of these diseases, the only course of action would be to approach the South African Bone Marrow Registry to find a possible stem cell match.

However, there is no guarantee that a match will be found and the search for a possible match can be debilitating to a family’s finances and hope for recovery. In addition, delays and the high costs involved, could hamper the success of the stem cell transplant.

It is for this reason that West says more and more attention is being devoted to educating prospective parents regarding the life-saving potential of collecting and storing stem cells from the umbilical cord and blood.

“The advantage of stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood is that they are less likely than bone marrow stem cells to be rejected in transplants.

Considered to be immunologically immature, umbilical cord blood stem cells produce significantly fewer natural killer cells, meaning there is much less chance of rejection or Graft versus host disease (GvHD).

Read: Stem cells used to treat macular degeneration

“And because cord blood stem cells require less rigorous tissue matching for transplants than bone marrow stem cells, the chances of finding an adequate sibling or unrelated match is significantly higher. Another major advantage is that cord blood stem cells are immediately available for transplantation, without delaying the treatment process,” she comments.

When it comes to the benefits of cord tissue, West explains that cord tissue mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) are younger and considered a superior resource when compared to bone marrow MSCs as they have a greater ability to multiply and differentiate when compared to their older donor counterparts.

“The umbilical cord is naturally crucial to the life of a baby in the womb, however following delivery, it is often discarded without considering it’s potentially lifesaving benefits. Here scientists are quickly discovering that the tissue of the umbilical cord could become a vital component to the future treatment of many diseases that have mystified the healthcare industry for decades.

Read: Eye cells created from stem cells

West says that mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy is currently being used in more than 500 clinical trials in the USA to treat chronic diseases like diabetes, and the fact that cord tissue could become a vital component to the future treatment of many diseases is yet another reason parents should consider banking cord blood and tissue.

“Stem cells provide nearly limitless potential for medical applications because they can replicate any tissue found in the body and could potentially also be used someday to replace or repair tissue damaged by disease or injury,” she concludes.

Read more:

Embryonic stem cells restore vision in volunteers 

Stem cells may help treat heart failure 

 
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