Saving cord blood, also known as banking cord blood, is slowly becoming a common practice all over the world. Blood from a baby’s umbilical cord is harvested at birth and cryogenically frozen and stored at a cord blood banking facility for the baby’s, or a family member’s, medical use in the future. Banking cord blood can provide a host of benefits in the face of serious health issues such as leukemia and brain injury.
Cord blood is rich with stem cells that can be used to treat over 80 serious diseases such as blood disorders and certain cancers. Current research also indicates that cord blood can be used for its regenerative properties, treating cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes, and some brain injuries. Saving cord blood can allow these diseases to be treated early and aggressively, typically providing an overall better outcome.
While donated cord blood can be used in the face of these diseases, banking cord blood is extremely beneficial to families with a history of certain diseases and for ethnic minorities because they may have a more difficult time finding a donor match. Donor cord blood also cannot be used during experimental research, thereby limiting treatment options for many families. While stem cells can be harvested from bone marrow, the stem cells in cord blood are easier to both harvest and transport. The sheer amount of stem cells available in cord blood also makes treatments that require a large transfusion possible.
Outside of helping the individual child in the future, banking cord blood can also benefit family members. In the case of inherited genetic disorders, the cord blood of a sibling is usually the best treatment available, as the patient’s own cord blood will have no effect on the disorder. Should a family member need a stem cell transplant in the future, saving cord blood also provides a better chance that a match will be available.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that as many as one in 1,000 people use their own banked cord blood at some point in their lifetime, making saving cord blood a possible investment in a child’s future health. Banking cord blood, however, can be cost prohibitive for many families. Those who are prone to the diseases that cord blood could treat, and those who may have difficulty finding a donor match, often weigh the cost of saving cord blood versus the cost of treating a disease or disorder in the future without it.
The health benefits of saving cord blood are numerous, and researchers are continuously finding new ways that stem cells from cord blood can help treat even more health issues. Outside of medical issues, saving cord blood can also provide families and their children with the peace of mind that they have a safety net in the event of developing serious health problems. This sense of security can be one of the most important benefits of saving cord blood.