Increasing awareness around the medical treatments available through umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cell transplants, means that stem cell banking is fast becoming a hot topic in parenting circles.
However, owing to the fact that there are multiple sources of stem cells within the body – including bone marrow, umbilical cord and placenta blood, umbilical cord and placenta tissues, adult peripheral blood and other body tissues – it can become confusing when it comes to understanding the differences and benefits of the stem cells from each of these sources.
While bone marrow transplants are generally more commonly known and still being used to treat numerous diseases, 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.
Cord blood contains high concentrations of blood stem cells. These are taken from a newborn’s umbilical cord and placenta immediately following birth. When these umbilical cord blood restore the immune and blood systems to help fight diseases and replace diseased blood.
Cord blood stem cell transplants have unique advantages over traditional bone marrow transplantation:
- cord blood is more tolerant to HLA disparity, meaning that the HLA tissue types do not have to match 100%.
- this also lowers the risk of developing severe GVHD.
- cord blood stem cells are readily available for transplant, and
- storage costs less than collecting a donor’s bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.
Like bone marrow, cord tissue also contains Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). However, the younger cells present in cord tissue have a greater ability to multiply and differentiate when compared to their older donor counterparts. For this reason, they are considered a superior resource when compared to bone marrow MSCs.
In addition, the large volume of umbilical cord and ease of physical manipulation increases the yield of MSCs. The presence of placental barrier, means that umbilical cord MSCs also have a lower risk of bacterial and viral infections than those isolated from bone marrow and fat.
Cord blood and cord tissue stem cells are already being used to treat a number of diseases. It could become a vital component of the future treatment of many diseases and injuries. This means stem cell storage is something every expecting parent should be considering as investment in their child’s future health.