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Why Save Your Baby's Cord Blood

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There's no denying there is something special, even magical about a new baby. His soft cheek, his dark hair, his mysterious blue eyes, and even his umbilical cord blood. Referred to as liquid gold by some doctors, cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and attached umbilical cord after childbirth. It is also a rich source of unique stem cells that can be used in various medical treatments (Cordblood.com).

According to Cord Blood Registry's website, the cord blood is collected immediately after birth and can be collected following a vaginal birth or cesarean section. Since the collection occurs after delivery, there is no harm or pain for the mother or infant. After the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the remaining blood is drawn into a collection bag. This is done is a similar way that standard blood is collected -- the umbilical cord vein is cannulated using a needle that is connected to a blood bag and the cord blood flows through the needle into the bag. The process takes as little as five minutes and collects approximately 75 mL of blood (Wikipedia.org).

ViaCord's website indicates cord blood transplants are currently being used to treat nearly 80 life-threatening diseases, including: ten forms of cancers -- of which Hodgkin's lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, which is a hematopoietic malignancy are a few; 16 bone marrow failure syndromes, such as red cell aplasia, Schwachman syndrome and cyclic neutropenia, in which there is recurrent episodes of abnormally low levels of neutrophils; eight blood disorders, including sickle-cell anemia, HbSC disease and alpha-thalassemia major, in which there is premature destruction of red blood cells; 18 metabolic disorders, such as Garcher's disease, Hunter syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease and adrenoleukodystrophy, which results in adrenal deficiency; as well as 17 immunodeficiency disorders, including DiGeorge syndrome, ataxia telangiectasia and leukocyte adhesion deficiency, which affect how white blood cells respond and travel to the wound site or infection (WebMD.com).

Aside from the impressive list of diseases cord blood transplants treat, the procedure is somewhat more preferable over bone marrow transplants for a few reasons. According to the online Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, cord blood cells cause much less graft versus host disease. In general, a bone marrow transplant requires at least an 83 percent HLA (human leukocyte antigen) match. A cord blood transplant can be successful with just a 67 percent HLA match. Another benefit of cord blood over bone marrow transplants is time. The donated cord blood is readily available where a bone marrow donor has to be found and approved, then the marrow harvested. On average, it took only 13.5 days to chose a cord blood unit, and 49 days to approve the bone marrow donor.

Cord blood also has uses that are just now being discovered and explored. Cord Blood Registry has noted umbilical cord blood is being tested in the effectiveness of treating traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and Type 1 Diabetes. A study conducted at the University of Florida indicates umbilical cord blood "may safely preserve insulin production in children newly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes" (ScienceDaily.com). Headed by Dr. Michael Haller, pediatric endocrinologist, the study was aimed at determining whether it is feasible to use a patient's own cord blood to neutralize the body's autoimmune attack on the pancreas and help restore its ability to produce insulin. The researchers identified children recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes whose families banked their cord blood at birth. Seven patients, aged two to seven received intravenous infusions of stem cells isolated from their own cord blood. The children were then evaluated over the next two years to measure how much insulin they were producing on their own and to assess blood sugar levels and immune system cell function. In the first six months, it was observed the patients required far less insulin per day and maintained better control of their blood sugar levels than children of the same age group with Type 1 Diabetes who did not undergo the transfusion. Although not seen as a cure for diabetes, it is definitely a step in



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