Parents and grandparents rejoice at the arrival of new members in the family. There are few things sweeter and more delightful than a newborn baby. All we want to do is love and protect them. We wish them a long and healthy life but we also know that life can bring difficulties and disease over which we don’t have a lot of control. But what if there was a way to ensure that both your child and grandchild (and even you!) might be able to survive a deadly disease if one was to strike?
That insurance policy has arrived and it’s called cord blood.
Cord Blood Banking
Umbilical cord blood banking is where, at time of birth, the blood from a baby’s umbilical cord, which is rich in stem cells, is drawn and banked for later use. There isn’t any discomfort to the newborn when the blood is drawn --- so there is little need to consider stem cell research as a moral discussion. The benefit is that if the child or the child’s sibling develops a disease that can be helped with stem cells there could be a perfect match just waiting for them to use. While a child’s own stem cells can’t cure a genetic issue or their own cancer right now, the use of cord blood in other diseases and in close matches certainly has major health benefits.
Stem cells from cord blood, even between people not related to one another, have shown that they are just as effective against blood cancers like leukemia as an unrelated marrow transplant, and cause lower rates of graft versus host disease. Plus, cord blood can be frozen and kept in a bank, while bone marrow and organ transplants have to be used very quickly.
The Future of Stem Cells
Stem cells have shown amazing possibilities against disease, yet in many cases, outside donors are necessary. Bone marrow donation can be a lifesaver to create new and healthy cells for those who suffer from various blood cancers, but perfect matches can be hard to come by. As more studies are done, there may be unlimited applications for cord blood --- and you can also choose to donate cord blood from a new baby to further research and look for new and exciting discoveries. Making childhood blood cancers a thing of the past could be in our reach.
While you can’t go back in time and bank your own cord blood, this is becoming a pretty routine request for new births. Once considered fringe medicine, like many other aspects of wellness care, science has come around to realize that there truly is something to this… and it is all about saving lives.