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Cord Blood: Preserving Stem Cells for the Future

Cord Blood Awareness Month July 2020

Many people, including new parents, physicians, and politicians, don’t know why cord blood is important. July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month and the perfect time to demystify the importance of cord blood preservation.

Why is Cord Blood Important?

Cord blood is a biological product regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It is found in the blood vessels of the placenta and umbilical cord, which is where it gets its name. These blood vessels are packed full of blood-forming stem cells and have been invaluable in treating blood cancers and certain blood and immune system disorders such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. Instead of replacing blood with blood, stem cells actually create blood, forming into blood cells and promoting regeneration or “regrowth”. This blood product is collected after the umbilical cord is cut so there is no threat to the baby or mother. Because it should be collected before being discarded as medical waste, parents-to-be should be aware of the benefits of cord blood banking.

Who Benefits from Cord Blood Collection and Preservation?

Patients living with diseases such as cancers, sickle cell disease, other blood disorders, or immune system disorders may benefit from cord blood. The stem cells collected from cord blood can be used by anyone, but there are two types of collection and banking.

Private Blood Banks

They collect cord blood after birth for a fee and then store it for the specific future use of the family. A family may decide to store cord blood if family medical history warrants it or as a precaution. There is usually a monthly or annual storage fee as well as a fee to transport the blood product to the medical facility where it will be used. The storage of your cord blood is not only expensive, but also may never be useful to your family.

Public Blood Banks

They  collect donated cord blood at birth and then store it in the same way that other blood products are used in the medical industry. Stem cells stored in a public blood bank are available for use by physicians and medical facilities to treat patients in need. Though the cord blood is donated, the public blood banks are compensated for the blood products, just as the hospital will also bill for it. These fees cover the overhead costs required to maintain the bank.

Regulations and Tips

Private blood banks are required to meet certain FDA regulations, but there are far less required when stored for personal use. Public blood banks must adhere to many regulations since cord blood is considered a drug and a biological product when it’s intended for public use.

If you consider donating cord blood when you give birth, start by asking your physician and birth hospital if they already participate in a cord blood banking program. This may be the easiest way to donate.

You can also search the FDA’s searchable database for human cell and tissue registration to find a public blood bank nearest you.

Public blood banks are in great need of cord blood from ethnic minorities. More donations from minority populations can provide a greater likelihood of a match for patients who need stem cell transplants. Sickle cell disease is only one condition that affects African Americans in greater numbers who would benefit from donated cord blood.

To find out more about how you can help patients in need of cord blood, click here.