Stem Cells from Umbilical Cord Blood
Normally, when a child is born, the umbilical cord is cut, tied off, and discarded. But, advances in genetic technology might change our views of and uses for the 20 inch connection between mothers and their unborn children. Parents are beginning to ask if they should store, or bank, blood vessels from their babyï¿½s umbilical cord.
The blood in the cord contains stem cells that could be used later as sources for replacement cells in the case of leukemia, bone marrow disorders, or severe immune system complications. There is some debate about the usefulness and practicality of banking umbilical cord blood. Studies estimate that only one in every 1,000 to 200,000 children (the wide range reflects the differences among studies) will develop conditions for which the cord blood cells would be helpful. This would mean that parents would have to spend a good deal of money to obtain and store material that they are not likely to need.
"New technological advances may change our views of the 20 inch direct connection between mothers and their unborn children."
On the other side of the argument, the position is that banking umbilical cord blood would be like purchasing an insurance policy, and provide an option that may or may not be needed. Additionally, proponents say that the blood could be used by other family members who become sick. Perhaps the most practical uses for banked umbilical cord blood would be to assist already ill family members, or to put the blood into a public registry. If the blood is available publicly, others might benefit from the blood, or it could be taken out of the registry by the child if he or she needs it later in life.
The process of cord blood collecting happens shortly after birth. After a typical vaginal delivery, the umbilical cord is clamped off at both ends, and then cut from the mother and baby. Before the placenta is delivered, a nurse or obstetrician collects blood from the vein inside the cord. Once the placenta is delivered, needles are put on the surface of the placenta to collect blood and cells from the large blood vessels that provided nutrition for the fetus. Of course, many older parents who hear of umbilical cord blood banking wish they had been able to do it when their own children were born.
Those parents who have had to deal with leukemia, marrow transplants, and other health problems know that it would have been well worth it to bank the cord blood when they had the chance. We have no real way of knowing what will happen in our children's lives, let alone what new information will arise in the field of genetic research. It might not be a bad idea to maintain any resources today that might be useful tomorrow, even if it costs a little extra.