FAQ

When Are Stem Cells Used?
Patients suffering from a malignant disease, such as leukemia, may undergo treatment with radiation or chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells in their body. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments are often successful in destroying the cancer cells. However, they may also destroy the patient’s healthy cells and bone marrow in the process. Bone marrow is essential for the production of blood cells.
If the bone marrow is destroyed, either from a malignant, non-malignant or genetic disorder, a stem cell transplant becomes necessary. Transplanted stem cells re-populate the bone marrow, which replenishes the body’s supply of red blood cells. Every year, a growing number of patients are diagnosed with diseases that can be treated by bone marrow transplantation.
 
The problem with this option is the lack of availability for an exact Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type match, which determines whether a patient has a suitable donor for stem cell transplant. Almost 50% of these patients are unable to find a donor using donor registries.
 
It is even more difficult for African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and other ethnic minorities or those with mixed ethnicities to locate donors. Using a family member’s stored stem cells offers patients in need a higher probability of finding an exact or acceptable match for their transplantation needs.
 
The probability that the stem cells will be an exact HLA type blood match is as follows: 100% for the child the stem cells were collected from, 50% for the mother and father of the child, and 25% for a sibling of the child, whose stem cells are saved. In addition, stem cell transplantation from umbilical cord blood is less likely to cause “graft vs. host disease”—an immune attack on the recipient by cells from a donor—and other complications relating to the body rejecting foreign cells rather than stem cell transplantation derived from a bone marrow donor.
How Long Has Science Known About Stem Cells in Umbilical Cord Blood?
Although cord blood has only recently received widespread media attention, the first successful cord blood transplant took place in France in 1988, for a child with Fanconi’s Anemia, a rare congenital anemia. In 1991, a transplant was performed on a child with chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.
Both transplants were successful, opening the door to cord blood transplantations for situations in which traditional bone marrow had been routinely used.
 
Since then, approximately two-thirds of the cord blood transplants (more than 2,000 to date) performed have been for malignant conditions, while the remainder have been done for a variety of genetic blood disorders. Cord blood has a distinct hematopoietic transplantation advantage over bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells including better tolerance against mismatches donor and recipient and decreased host-verses-host disease. Overall, cord blood transplants offer a high rate of success, which continues to grow as the number of transplants rises.
Which Diseases Can Be Treated with Cord Blood?
There is a wide range of diseases that are treatable with cord blood, including stem cell disorders, acute and chronic forms of leukemia, myeloproliferative disorders and many more.
Click here for a comprehensive list. [LIST} It’s important to note that, in addition to the host of conditions that can now be treated, it’s the potential of cord blood that holds the most excitement, as research continues to uncover new possibilities.
How Long Can Cord Blood Cells Be Stored?
While the science is still fairly new, there is yet to be a limit on how long cells can be stored and viable. According to published research (Transplantation, 1998:65 (9): 1275-1278), blood-forming stem cells stored up to 15 years can be used in transplants.
In fact, most research indicates that stem cells slow-rate frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen are viable for an indefinite period. At BabyCord you can continue to store your baby’s cells after 20 years.
What is Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD)?
GVHD is an immune system attack by donor cells against the recipient and can sometimes occur following bone marrow transplants.
Why is Cord Blood the Premier Source of Stem Cells?
Umbilical cord blood stem cells are controversy-free and offer advantages over other types of stem cells. While your baby’s own stem cells are a perfect match (100%), there is a good probability of a match for siblings, parents and or grandparents.
While stem cells have been in the news more and more these days, few understand that there are different types of stem cells:
  • Adult Stem Cells: Adult stem cells are found in bone marrow (the vehicle carrying these stem cells) and require invasive surgery to acquire. Also, finding a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant via a public bank can be difficult and sometimes impossible.
  • Embryonic Stem Cells: Derived from an embryo (sperm meets the egg) are highly controversial and often in the news and at the heart of many moral and ethical debates.
  • Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells: Umbilical cord blood offers a perfectly natural, controversy-free method of acquiring stem cells. (The Vatican approves of cord blood banking.) Cord blood stem cells offer many advantages over other stem cells. They are collected in a risk-free, 5-minute procedure at the time of birth that is painless for both mother and baby. Also, stem cells from cord blood are better than stem cells from bone marrow because they are less prone to “graft vs. host disease” (GVHD – an immune system attack by donor cells against the recipient) and other complications relating to the recipient body rejecting foreign cells. Most importantly, banked cord blood is available when you and your family need it most, allowing treatment to begin almost immediately, without time spent searching for a match. Plus, cord blood stem cells are a perfect match for the baby and can potentially be used to treat other family members.
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