Becoming a parent is an exciting time. As you await the birth of your baby, you will find there are new decisions to make, and options to consider when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your child. One consideration shared by intended parents in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and throughout the world is whether they wish to bank their baby’s stem cells. To make an informed decision, it’s important to understand what cord blood banking is and why it’s important. The preservation of a baby’s stem cells is a personal choice made by the intended parents.
The below post was written for Circle Surrogacy with MiracleCord.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is the collection, processing, and storage of stem cells derived from excess blood left in the umbilical cord after the birth of your child.
Physicians use cord blood stem cells to treat more than 80 life-threatening diseases, and that number is growing. There are more than 300 clinical trials underway that use cord blood and cord tissue stem cells. Stem cell treatments can protect adults as well as children.
Why Bank Cord Blood?
The stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and they are uniquely powerful. The building blocks of the body’s blood and immune systems, these valuable cells can be used to repair and replace tissue damaged by genetic diseases and medical conditions.
HSCs from cord blood are considered one of the best sources of healthy stem cells for use in transplants. In fact, blood from umbilical cords contains 10 times more HSCs than what’s contained in bone marrow. HSCs rarely carry infectious diseases and are believed to have greater regenerative properties than bone marrow stem cells.
Cord Blood vs. Cord Tissue
Cord tissue stem cells are collected from the Wharton’s Jelly and perivascular regions of the umbilical cord and are a source for Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). Both HSCs and MSCs have a role in regeneration and self-healing. While HSCs from cord blood can differentiate into any blood component to treat certain cancers, metabolic disorders, and immune diseases, MSCs from cord tissue can differentiate into many kinds of cells, including bone, fat, muscle, cartilage, and organ cells.
MSCs thus show great potential in the fields of regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and gene therapy.
Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banks
Stem cell compatibility is key to successful treatments. Stem cells collected from your newborn provides a perfect genetic match for that child and are highly likely to be a match for siblings and immediate family members as well.
Stem cells from your baby’s cord blood substantially reduce the risk of Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) for your child and your family, should they ever require a stem cell transplant. GVHD is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the healthy cells of the donor tissue attack the immunocompromised cells of the recipient. Nearly half of all patients who develop GVHD will die as a result.
According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation®, the chance of finding a donor match from a public bank is very low. The unfortunate reality is that 80% of all donated cord blood samples will never be stored for future transplants. And while you won’t pay an ongoing storage fee for a public cord bank, it can be costly to find a donor match and retrieve a cord blood unit from one. Organizations like Be The Match may help should you find yourself in need of stem cells for transplant, or if you want to donate your child’s cord blood and tissue.
How Long Do Stored Stem Cells Last?
Stem cells that have been cryogenically preserved (frozen) remain viable indefinitely.
What is the Collection Process?
The company you choose to bank with sends you a collection kit that you take to the hospital on delivery day. After the baby is born and the cord has been clamped and cut, your doctor or midwife will clean and draw the leftover cord blood from the clamped cord into a special collection bag. A maternal sample will be collected as well to test for infectious diseases.
A direct medical courier is the best option to get the collection to the cord blood bank’s lab for processing, but not all cord blood banks offer or include this service in their stated fees.
The timing here matters: The sooner the cord blood and tissue cells are processed after collection, the greater the number of cells that will be available for future transplants. MiracleCord is unique in its ability to process your baby’s cord blood and tissue stem cells within an average of 12 hours after collection, which they claim results in 67% more stem cells. MiracleCord also includes the services of a direct medical courier at no additional cost to their clients.
How to Choose a Cord Blood Bank
There are several cord blood banks to choose from. Here are a few key considerations:
Processing technology: Look for companies that offer AXP II automated processing as opposed to Sepax® or Hespan processing methods, to recover the maximum number of stem cells.
Processing time: Look for a company that can process the cord blood and tissue within 12 hours.
Collection kit: The kits should have an FDA-approved cord blood collection bag that is Heparin-free.
Experience & accreditation: The lab should be FDA registered and AABB accredited. Be sure to ask how long the company has been in business and check their BBB ratings and customer reviews.
Affordability: Ask if there are costs you can expect outside of the stated fees.
Cord Blood Banking and Surrogacy
The process of collecting, storing, and retrieving cord blood and tissue is no different for intended parents who are growing their families through surrogacy than for a traditional pregnancy. It is the intended parents’ decision whether or not they will have cord blood collected. Circle Surrogacy can help facilitate coordination between all parties. If intended parents decide they would like to collect stem cells, a collection kit will be sent to the surrogate, and she will pack it in her hospital bag that she brings with her on delivery day.
While there are different options to grow your family – gestational surrogacy, adoption, foster care – there is no “right way.” Different options work for different families. The choice of how to grow your family is personal and should be decided with your partner and support system. If you choose gestational surrogacy, we are here to help!
If you’re interested in learning more about gestational surrogacy, our team would be happy to speak with you. Simply fill out this form to be connected with our Parent Team.