The umbilical cord is an amazing feat of nature -- it provides oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. However, the umbilical cord use doesn’t have to stop after the baby’s born.
Blood contained in an umbilical cord, even after birth, is a rich and viable source for stem cells, or building blocks of the body. Cord blood stem cells have the ability to regenerate healthy blood and immune systems, making them perfect for treating certain ailments. Currently, these cells are used in bone marrow transplants to cure diseases such as but not limited to aplastic anemia, lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, metabolic disorders, leukodystrophies, thalassemia and other blood disorders.
Most people have their child’s umbilical cord discarded after birth. In the past few years, we have come far with cord blood research. An umbilical cord can now be removed and stored for years -- providing your children or another sick person a source of healthy cord blood cells should they need it.
Donating cord blood is highly encouraged especially for newborns of minor ethnic groups due to the lack of adequate number of adult volunteers in the donor registry,” says Dr. Melhem Solh, a bone marrow transplant physician at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.
For those fortunate to have healthy children, cord blood can be donated to those who need it. For some diseases, an external source of stem cells is the only potential for cure when a matched sibling or an unrelated volunteer person is not available. . Donating cord blood can help alleviate this problem and provide more matches to patients who need them most.
Current research is also finding more uses for cord blood stem cells including healing the body of autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries, and type 1 diabetes through clinical trials. These cells could potentially cure or dramatically improve these serious health conditions, showing promise for the future of cord blood.
Cord Blood plays a very important role in transplant today. It has given a new life to more than 20,000 patients over the last few years.
“At Florida Hospital, we have made this transplant available to all patients who need it,” says Dr. Sohl. “Cord blood is stored and ready to use. We can obtain a cord unit in less than two weeks compared to two months or more to find an unrelated adult donor, moving the transplant process along much faster for those in quick need of this procedure.”
Are you pregnant or planning for a family soon? Consider donating your cord blood. If you are interested in learning more about research, stem cells or how to donate cord blood, visit the Cord:Use website.