The birth of a baby is an exciting time, full of joy. It is also a time of making big decisions. Some of these choices determine how you plan to handle the health of your baby. The mother’s health is also of importance. The hospital where the baby is born is the place where initial assessments take place. One decision that must be made immediately, is whether or not to bank the umbilical cord. The benefits of cord blood have been recognized in recent years.
The part of the umbilical cord that is used for health purposes is the stem cells. These are unique because they are unspecialized. They are like the foundation cells of every part of the human body. All of your tissue and organs are based on stem cells. There are three different types of stem cells.
There are adult, embryonic, and umbilical stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are used in research, but have yet to make an appearance in medical practice. Adult stem cells are most prevalent in bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants are used to treat diseases, such as cancer. The blood in the umbilical cord is equipped with more than ten times the amount of stem cells found in bone marrow.
Early stem cell transplants took place in the 1950’s. Bone marrow transplants began to show success in the 1970’s. The main use for this in the early years was to reverse the negative effects of chemotherapy on bone marrow. Umbilical stem cell transplants took a little longer to perfect. The first transplant involving umbilical stem cells that worked was in the later part of the 1980’s. The first specific case involved a young boy with a genetic disorder called Fanconi’s anemia.
The procedure was done in France at Hospital St. Louis. The cord blood used was from his younger sister. It was collected at birth. The boy survived to adulthood because of this donation. The transplant caused his body to make a complete transformation. The stem cells initiated changes in his both his blood and immune system. This even spurred the creation of the first umbilical cord blood bank.
The main uses of stem cells are grouped into four categories. These are blood disorders, immunodeficiency issues, blood disorders, and cancers. Cancers that respond to stem cell treatment are lymphoma and leukemia. There are different types of anemia that can be treated with stem cells, as well. Two of these are Fanconi’s anemia (as mentioned above), and sickle cell anemia. Duncan’s disease and adenosine deficiency are types of immunodeficiency problems that are treated with stem cells.
Research for further uses of stem cells is ongoing. Current studies are focused on the use of stem cells to treat lupus, multiple sclerosis, and systemic sclerosis. These are common autoimmune disorders that can be difficult to treat. The regenerative possibilities include treatment for stroke, diabetes, and heart attacks. Spinal cord injuries, liver injury, and brain injuries, are also being considered as possibilities.
Stem cells are an amazing regenerative form of cells that can be used to treat a variety of health issues. It is pertinent that you decide ahead of time is you plan to bank your babies cord blood. You must find a bank and secure your financial commitment. This can be especially important if you have hereditary diseases that run in your family. Siblings are more likely to be a match for each other. If you have multiple children, cord blood storage is a gift that could potentially benefit them if health issues arise during their lifetime.
Welcoming a new baby is a time of celebration and also a time to make a lifesaving decision.