The discovery that cord blood has a goodly percentage of stem cells that can be used in the treatment of variety of conditions is set to revolutionize medical practice around the globe. The sample is extracted from the umbilical cord and the placenta before, during or after the birth of an infant. The mother will have given her consent for this to be done prior to delivery.
Instead of discarding the afterbirth as medical trash, doctors instead extract the stem cells present in the material and preserve it. When there is need to use these cells in treatment, a match is identified from those stem cells in storage and if a match is identified, the treatment can proceed. There is more research being conducted to discover even newer treatment approaches.
The range of conditions for which this revolutionary technique is suited for is impressively long. The list includes both malignant and non malignant ailments reported in both children and adults. They range from sickle cell disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, Fanconi’s anemia to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease as well as heart attacks, strokes, spinal injuries, osteoporosis and even diabetes.
Granted, research in this brand of treatment has not been as far ranging as is the case in the use of bone marrow. However, there are adequate cases of success that have created widespread interest in medical circles. Since they are undifferentiated cells, they can be applied in treatment of many cellular deficiencies where they will transform to whatever tissue is needed.
In comparison to donations made from the bone marrow, this method has a couple of advantages. For one, the extraction process is far much easier as there is no need to anesthetize the donor before collection of a sample is done. Furthermore, there is no risk of infection as the extraction is done after the umbilical cord has been severed from both the mother and child.
There are generally two methods by which the extraction and collection can be done. If the procedure is done before delivery, this is referred to as ‘in-utero’, if this is done after birth of the baby has occurred, it referred to as ‘ex-utero’. The risks are minimal whether delivery is vaginal or cesarean.
Once the collection has been done, the sample is delivered by a medical courier to a blood-bank. It will be scanned to ensure that it does not contain any infectious disease pathogens before storage. The red blood cells will also be separated and removed from the extract.
The sample will then be cooled very gradually in order to prevent any shock that might damage the cells. When it has attained temperatures of around minus 90 degrees, transferring it to custom made freezers in anticipation of any orders. Some custom made bags are used to ensure the extract is effectively stored, and even where part of the sample has been used, there is enough remaining to regenerate a new culture.
The use of cord blood in treatment of various ailments has brought about the birth of a new field of medical practice. Its effectiveness as well as ease of extraction has made a compelling case that has seen it pose a challenge to more established methods.