July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to learn more about cord blood—a biological product regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Cord blood (umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders and can be collected immediately after the birth of the baby by the obstetrician or midwife. The umbilical cord is cut and clamped, a needle is inserted into the umbilical vein and blood is collected into a sterile collection bag. Cord blood collection is quick, safe, and painless for both mother and baby and approximately 100-150ml of blood needs to be collected for successful storage.
Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are stem cells that give rise to the connective tissues of the body i.e. skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, nerve, and fat. MSCs are being employed in research environments for a wide variety of aesthetic and medical conditions.
Cord tissue is collected after the cord blood has been collected and the placenta has been delivered. A 10-15cm piece of the umbilical cord is cut, cleaned, and placed in a sterile collection tube.
Who Can Use the Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells?
- The Child Themselves – they are a perfect match provided they do not have an inherited or genetic disease.
- The Siblings – 1:4 chance of being a match.
- The Parents – 1:8 chance of being a match. It must be noted that the child gets half their genes from the mother and half from the father. Unless the parents have some matching genes themselves, it is unlikely that the child will be a match to either parent. Parents will be haploid-identical (50% match with their children) but more haploid-identical transplants are being done.
Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is approved only for use in “hematopoietic stem cell transplantation” procedures, which are done in patients with disorders affecting the hematopoietic (blood-forming) system. Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells that can be used in the treatment of patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as certain disorders of the blood and immune systems, such as sickle cell disease and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, ((WAS) is a rare X-linked recessive disease characterised by eczema, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), immune deficiency, and bloody diarrhea (secondary to the thrombocytopenia).
Cord blood is useful because it is a source of stem cells that form into blood cells. Cord blood can be used for transplantation in people who need regeneration, that is, ‘regrowth,’ of these blood-forming cells. Both related and unrelated cord blood transplants have been performed with high rates of success for a variety of hematologic disorders and metabolic storage diseases in the pediatric setting (Ballen; Gluckman & Broxmeyer. Blood. 2013 Jul 25; 122(4): 491–498).
For instance, in many cancer patients, the disease is found in the blood cells. Chemotherapy treatment of these patients kills both cancer cells and the healthy blood-forming stem cells. Transplanted stem cells from cord blood can help regrow the healthy blood cells after chemotherapy.
Research studies have shown that the percentage of cells expressing neural progenitor markers may vary from cluster to cluster and the clusters that have progenitors expressing MSC markers alone require extensive exposure to a combination of growth factors to transdifferentiate the MSCs into neurons. The findings, therefore, form the basis for developing better neuronal differentiation protocols from MSCs, which can be used for therapeutic applications (Divya; Roshin Vazhanthodi; Thankayyan. et.al. 2012).