Cord Blood Basics

Stem cells are immature cells that have the remarkable ability to self-reproduce into different cell types in the body. Embryonic stem cells are able to transform into a wide variation of types of cells, while adult stem cells are limited to the types of stem cells they can produce. Stem cells have two unique characteristics that distinguish themselves from other cells in the body. First, these non-specific cells can differentiate themselves by cell division even after prolonged intervals of inactivity. Second, the cells can be induced naturally or experimentally to become tissue or organ specific cells where they can replace and repair damaged tissue.

Cells isolated from umbilical cord blood at birth are rich in stem cells that also have the ability to transform into most human cell lines. These cells have become part of routine standard-of-care to successfully treat numerous blood-related disorders in addition to other life-threatening diseases. Cord Blood transplants have surpassed bone marrow as a source for stem cells with approximately 25% of all stem cell transplants coming from cord blood units.

With the rapidly advances in medical technology, banking cord blood is emerging as an increasing valuable opportunity to preserve potentially life-saving cells that are commonly discarded after birth. Experts estimate that as many as 1 in 3 individuals during their lifetime could benefit from regenerative therapy (Harris DT et al) using the application of stem cells. Currently, regenerative medicine focuses on restoring the function of damaged tissue with conditions like blood disorders, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, spinal cord injury, genetic diseases, and numerous more potentially benefitting from cord blood stem cells.

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