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Umbilical Cord Blood- Collect and Protect your Baby's Stem Cells at Birth

A new baby can save a life within moments of being born. How?

• The blood left in the umbilical cord can be easily collected immediately after the baby’s umbilical cord is cut.
• This blood has a very high concentration of stem cells which are routinely used to treat over 70 different diseases.

PARENTS HAVE CHOICES - DONATE or FAMILY STORAGE: Parents may choose to store their child’s cord blood for their own family to use in the future should the need arise. These can be used to treat the child, siblings and other family members. Cells for Life is an example of an accredited cord blood bank that offers this service to Canadians.

Alternatively, parents may choose to donate their child’s cord blood to a public bank or research program. Public banks store about 20 percent of donated cord blood for medical use; the remaining 80 percent of the samples are dedicated to research projects. There is one government-funded bank available to Quebec, and parents living in the Greater Toronto Area have access to Victoria Angel Registry of Hope, a bank primarily funded by Cells for Life. Canada will have another government funded public bank within the next few years.

CORD BLOOD BANKING IS EASY: Parents register and receive a collection kit which is taken to the delivery room. “The collection procedure takes less than five minutes and there is no risk or discomfort to the mother or baby” states Obstetrician Dr. Michael Virro, Medical Director of Cells for Life Cord Blood Institute Inc. The kit is returned back to the laboratory where the stem cells are processed and stored. Parents pay a fee to store privately (~$1000 for the first year and an annual storage fee of ~$125 per year). Those who donate their sample to research or a public bank do not assume any fees.

STORAGE PERIOD: Most family banks offer storage agreements for 18 years. Parents are “guardians” of the sample until the child turns 18 years old. At that time the child can make their own decision to continue storing their sample. A recent publication in the medical journal Blood stated the viability and functionality of a frozen cord blood sample to be 21 – 23.5 years . Theoretically, the time frame could be much longer but we will have to wait for future publications before we make that claim.

USES: Most commonly, cord blood stem cells are being used to repair diseased or depleted bone marrow resulting from disorders affecting the blood or immune system such as leukemia and lymphoma. In addition, these stem cells have been used following radiation or chemotherapy in cancer treatment to reconstitute the damaged bone marrow.

In 2001, during a routine prenatal test at 27 weeks Patrizia Durante was diagnosed with leukemia. Prior to the delivery of her baby, Patrizia had the foresight to ask doctors to collect and store her baby’s cord blood. Patrizia endured bone marrow biopsies, chemotherapy and other treatments. After a two-month remission, her leukemia returned. Doctors searched for a matching bone marrow donor but none could be found. Patrizia reminded them about her daughter’s cord blood that had been stored. Patrizia is now cured and her 10-year old daughter is a happy, healthy girl.

To date, Cells for Life Cord Blood Bank has released 5 samples for medical treatment at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, all with successful stem cell engraftment. In 4 cases children have used their sibling’s samples to treat blood diseases. In 1 case a four year old boy had his own cord blood infused into him to repair bone marrow damage caused by extensive chemo and radiation therapies used to treat a type of brain tumor (medullablastoma). The parents and transplant physicians were relieved that they had the foresight to store the cord blood for their family’s use. It is important to note that young children with leukemia cannot use their own cord blood to treat themselves, as the disease may have already been present at birth. In these cases, cord blood from a family member or public bank sample is required.

The chance of a family needing the sample is low and estimates vary. “Statistics at our cord blood bank are 1:6000 based on our transplants versus stored cord blood units” says Dr. Virro, Medical Director at Cells for Life. These odds will change as treatments are developed.

In comparison to stem cells derived from bone marrow, the stem cell count from umbilical cord blood samples is significantly lower and some times not high enough to treat an adult patient. This can now be overcome by using double unit transplants, i.e. two cord blood units instead of one. Although research is still on-going, the preliminary data presented are very encouraging. In fact, in North-America during 2010, more cord blood units were used for adults then for children .

FUTURE USES OF CORD BLOOD STEM CELLS: In the USA alone, 401 clinical trials are currently listed; many are actively recruiting participants. To review this work visit www.clinical trials.gov; search for ‘cord blood’. We should remain cautious not to over-interpret anecdotal results until proper studies have been evaluated and published. Some of these studies include heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s and Cerebral palsy.

For more information visit www.cellsforlife.com and sign up for a free online Webinar.

Broxmeyer H et al. Hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, generation of induced pluripotent stem cells and isolation of endothelial progenitors from 21-23.5 year cryopreserved cord blood. Blood, 2011;117:4773-7.

Brunstein CG et al Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for hematologic malignancy: relative risks and benefits of double umbilical cord blood. Blood. 2010 Nov 25;116(22):4693-9.
Usage: NMDP http://www.marrow.org/PHYSICIAN/Outcomes_Data/index.html#sources

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