The blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord of a newborn child is of special significance to medical science because it contains unique type of cells known as hematopoietic stem cells. These cells have the ability to form white blood cells (WBC), red blood cells (RBC) and platelets. The cord blood can be extracted and cryopreseved in special blood banks called banks and used later in the treatment of cancer and other diseases related to blood and immune system.
Cord blood is extracted from the neonatal end of the umbilical cord within 10 minutes of the baby’s birth. First, the umbilical cord is severed and then it is collected in a unit. After that, it is extracted from the placental end and collected in the same unit. The placenta is then taken to the laboratory for further processing to extract any remaining stem cells. The minimum amount of blood collected soon after birth is 75 milliliters.
The cord blood thus collected is subjected to rigorous testing for the presence of viruses, including HIV, Hapatitis B and Hepatitis C. After determining that the blood is free of viruses, a number of further tests are carried out to determine the nucleated blood group antigen (ABO and Rh), cell viability, cell count, molecular cluster, fungal growth and bacterial growth. Once the material is found to be clean and healthy, it is cryopreserved in a bank.
Cryopreservation is the method of preserving blood cells by cooling them below the freezing point of water. The cord blood is first slowly cooled down to -90o Celsius. It is then placed in a nitrogen tank where it is frozen at -196o Celsius. This process of slow freezing keeps the cells alive. There are several different methods of crypreserving; some require red blood cells to be removed before preserving while others require them to be left alone.
Since the stem cells present in cord blood can form WBC, RBC and platelets, which are the main components of blood, and can be used later in the life to treat terminal diseases like cancer, blood disorders and disorders of the immune system. It has especially become indispensable in the treatment of leukemia because suitable donors for bone marrow transplant are extremely difficult to find.
A bank is a special facility where the blood can be stored indefinitely. You have two choices for storing the substance: either a public bank or a private bank. Storing in a public bank is technically considered a donation because the blood can be made available to anyone who is in need. A private bank, on the other hand, makes it available only to you and your child and normally charge between $1,000 and $2,000 for the storage service. If you would like more information on cryopreserving cord blook, please consult with the experts at Cells for Life.