Should We Bank Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood?

Looking for an original gift idea? “Friends, parents, freeze the umbilical cord of the newborn! Stem cells that are present in it are rare and irreplaceable: preserving them is a responsible choice. They represent the new frontier of medicine and the concrete hope to cure hitherto incurable diseases … “.

For 2000 to 2300 euros and about 100 euros per year, these edges store cord blood for 20 years at 196 °C. At the end of this period, the cord owner may decide to revive the contract.

And the formula seduced: in just one small decade, nearly one million families, from all nationalities, have already made the choice to keep the umbilical cord of their child in such edges. Celebrities such as football player Thierry Henry and Prince Felipe of Spain have also provide to temptation, providing consequently, a great advertising to this booming market. As for maternities, they are facing a growing need from parents. The occurrence is growing fast and the situation is unclear.

Today, three possibilities are open to prospective parents: discarding the cord, as has always been the case; storing it in a private cord blood bank for a possible future autologous (self) transplant; or giving it to the network of public cord blood edges, where it can be an anonymous donation (i.e allogenic).

Preserving the umbilical cord blood of one’s child is a bet on the future: maintaining the hope that regenerative medicine will be able to treat with stem cells, a wide range of diseases (neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, alterations of the eye, but also fractures, burns …). If necessary, the child could have his own cells, i.e., an autologous transplant, fully compatible in terms of immunology.

With cord blood, we can already treat 85 diseases, mostly diseases of the blood and immune system

, says Nico Forraz, a researcher of the Cord Blood Center of the University of Newcastle. Indeed, umbilical cord blood transplants have, in the case of blood diseases like leukemia, an different to bone marrow transplants, which require painful harvesting.

The enthusiasm for cord blood stem cells is not new. At the hospital Saint-Louis (Paris-France) in 1988, Professor Eliane Gluckman achieved a world premiere by transplanting in a child with Fanconi anemia (genetic disorder causing a without of bone marrow) blood stem cells from the umbilical cord of his little sister. These cells, called hematopoietic are able to differentiate into white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets renewing permanently the blood and immune system. consequently, the transplant has helped regenerate hematopoiesis (the formation of the blood) in the patient.

Since the success of this transplant, an international network of public cord blood edges has been developed, which made it possible for approximately 10.000 persons experiencing from diseases of the blood and immune system, to receive a cord blood stem cell transplant.

As for other applications, though promising, they are nevertheless in the research stage. At the University of Florida, a child with juvenile diabetes has seen his condition enhance after receiving the blood of his own cord. Thirty children with this same disorder are currently participating in a clinical study.

In Spain, researchers from the Universities of Granada and Leon have treated rats with hepatitis using human stem cells from the umbilical cord. At Newcastle, the team of Colin McGuckin produced small pieces of nervous tissue, artificial vessels and pancreatic cells from cord blood stem cells. Georges Uzan, a biologist at INSERM (France), was able to regenerate vascular tissue in mice, by injecting these same cells: very encouraging results in the treatment of ischemia. However, the researcher states that there is nevertheless a huge gap between the preparation of cells in a laboratory and producing functional cells on a large extent, to treat patients.

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