Everything You Need to Know About Cord Blood Banking

Cord blood storage or stem cell banking refers to the collection of stem cells in the blood which remain inside the umbilical cord post-delivery.

According to WebMD.com: “The umbilical cord fluid is loaded with stem cells. They can treat cancer, blood diseases like anemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body’s ability to defend itself.

The fluid is easy to collect and has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow. Stem cells from cord blood rarely carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.”

What is Cord blood stem cell?

So, a stem cell is a particular type of precursor to all mature cells in your body. It is through stem cells that every organ and organisation in our body is formed.

Right now, you might have got the clue as to where we are headed.

These stem cells can be (or are) used to revive certain cells and organs of our body when they are dysfunctional. A prime example of using stem cells to treat diseases is cancer. Stem cells are used to revive the organs that have been damaged by cancerous cells. There are also some treatments of autoimmune diseases in which stem cells are programmed to give rise to new immune cells which won’t harm the ‘self’.

These stem cells can be extracted from various parts of the human body, almost every organ (from the liver to the brain to bone marrow) has its own type of stem cell. The umbilical cord, which connects the baby to the mother and helps in sending nutrition or oxygen to the foetus, contains a healthy amount of stem cells. These stem cells can be stored in banks and can be reprogrammed to generate new cells and even new organs.

Anyway, the collection of stem cells is the reason why cord blood storage is important.

What is Cord Blood storage and why are they called banks?

Well, the primary and the most simplistic reason to ‘Why are they called banks?” is because they store things (in this case stem cells). However, this is not the full explanation. Cord blood storage can be of three types:

1) Public cord banks: They do not charge anything for cord blood storage. Any donation made is available to anyone who is in need. The stored cord blood is also used for research.

2) Private cord banks: They charge money for cord blood storage. Only the donors and their family members can use this cord blood. They are pretty expensive.

3) Direct-donation banks: These are both: private and public. They accept donations from everyone and the cord blood can be used by anyone. They also accept reserved donations, in which, the stored cells can only be used by the donors and their family members.

Due to these divisions between the private and the public storage, cord blood collection is mainly referred to as ‘banks’.

How do they do this?

Cord blood storage is pretty simple at least for the donors. At the last stages of your pregnancy, you are required to fill a form that acknowledges that you are donating or storing your cord blood.

At the time of your delivery, the cord blood storage agency or bank would send a sterilized kit to collect the cord blood. The container already contains anti-coagulants which do not let the blood cells and other cells coalesce into each other.

Post-delivery, when the umbilical cord is cut, blood oozes out of the cord (which is actually a tube), this blood is stored in the container provided with the kit. This is then sent to the stem cell bank, where it is stored.

How does this benefit your family?

To conclude, whenever anything is injected or grafted into your body, the immune system starts acting up. The immune system’s duty is to prevent anything ‘foreign’ from entering your body.

This is called graft v/s host rejection. Cord blood storage allows the use of the same stem cells for the same body. Also, graft rejection is minimised in the case of immediate family members and cousins.

Hope now you feel confident about cord blood storage.