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  Cord Blood Banking
  About Cord Blood
  Cord Blood Stem Cells
  Diseases Treated
  Pros and Cons
  How To Preserve
  Banking Process
  Why Cord Blood Banking
  Types of Cord Blood Banks
  Public Cord Blood Bank
  Private Cord Blood Bank
  Selecting Cord Blood Bank
  Cost For Cord Blood Banking
  Ethical Issues
  Cord Blood FAQs

What are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

In the human body, most of our cells are very specialized – cells are often created for specific purposes, like brain cells, bone cells or muscle cells. In our bone marrow, however, we have a special type of cells – called hematopoietic stem cells – that are capable of developing into any one of the different types of cells that we need. As these cells mature and proliferate, they also produce more hematopoietic stem cells, so that we always have enough throughout our lives.

The human fetus contains a number of stem cells as well. As a fetus grows, all of its different organs and systems develop from these so-called “primitive embryonic stem cells.” These are far less differentiated than hematopoietic stem cells and can grow into far more different things – including all the organs and tissues that the baby will develop.

There are also stem cells in the blood in a baby's umbilical cord that are hematopoietic stem cells in actuality, but that act more like embryonic stem cells. These stem cells are neither as unspecialized as embryonic stem cells, nor as specialized as the adult stem cells found in bone marrow. When a baby is born, the blood from its umbilical cord can be harvested to retrieve the stem cells it contains. Cord blood can be stored at either a public or private cord blood bank, although, at present, retrieval and storage of cord blood is done only at the parents' request.

Stem cells have the potential to treat – possibly even cure – a number of diseases, from diabetes to cancer. The most versatile stem cells are embryonic stem cells. However, these stem cells are often harvested from fetuses, which are then disposed of according to protocols for handling medical waste. This has given rise to a great number of ethical dilemmas and a not insignificant amount of moral outcry. These debates are ongoing and have caused some aspects of stem cell research to slow or stall altogether.

Cord blood stem cells seem to provide a viable alternative. The child isn’t harmed during the harvesting of cord blood, nor is there any pain involved for the baby or the mother. The chief controversies regarding the use of cord blood stem cells seems to be whether or not the cord should be left alone to stop circulating on its own, and whether the blood should be harvested and donated to a public bank if the parents don’t want to harvest it for their own use.

A number of private cord blood storage banks urge parents to use their facilities, preserving their infant's cord blood for future use only by that infant and its immediate family. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned that some private cord blood storage banks make claims about the future potential of cord blood that may not be substantiated in medical literature, thereby misleading parents. While cord blood stem cells may help a child or related family member later in life, it isn’t a miracle cure for any disease that may occur down the road.

Other medical experts worry that if discoveries are made that show cord blood can treat or cure a number of chronic diseases, there may not be enough cord blood for all patients if there are private reserves that can’t be accessed. There’s also some indication that private reserves may not be as useful for family members as once thought, and that – as with bone marrow registries – there may be better matches available than even immediate family members.

As with most medical decisions, the choice of whether or not to store cord blood stem cells is one that you’ll need to make after researching the various options available and determining which course of action makes the most sense for your situation.

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