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What is Cord Blood Banking and Why You Should Consider It?


The term “cord blood banking” has been heavily discussed among parents lately. But what is it exactly and what can it do for you and your family?


We dug deeper, and here’s exactly what it is…

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Stem cells are essentially the building blocks of the human body. The umbilical cord, which serves as the lifeline between mother and baby for 9 months, is an abundant source of these stem cells.


What is cord blood and cord lining banking?


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Cord blood, also called “placental blood”, is blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and after the umbilical cord is cut after delivery.

Cord blood banking is the process of storing your child’s umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells should the need for a stem cell transplant ever arise.

Cord blood is particularly rich in Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), which are responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system. HSCs are known as ‘precursor cells’ as they have the unique ability to differentiate into the different types of cells found in the body, namely:


  • Red blood cells – to transport oxygen throughout the body
  • White blood cells – produces antibodies and fights infections
  • Platelets – assists in blood clotting

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Cord blood can be used to treat over 85 types of diseases1 such as leukaemia, lymphoma and thalassaemia, as well as metabolic and immune disorders. Clinical trials are also underway to use cord blood for the treatment of autism, cerebral palsy, Type 1 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury and many more2. Clinical trials are one of the key driving forces in medical breakthroughs and it represents hope for families with conditions that have no known cure.

Other than cord blood, there is also a sheet-like membrane surrounding the umbilical cord, known as cord lining. Cord lining contains an abundance of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Epithelial Stem Cells (EpSCs), which are the “muscle-forming” and “skin-forming” building blocks in the human body. Both MSCs and EpSCs have shown potential in aiding the repair of injured tissues and organs, as well as for the treatment of various diseases.


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As cord lining stem cells have immune-modulating characteristics, the matching criteria between donor and patient is less stringent, thus making them a suitable match for both your baby and other members of the family. Although the medical use of cord lining stem cells are still under clinical trials, the list of potential treatments include stroke, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and Type 1 Diabetes, just to name a few.

While different types of stem cells serve varying functions, when used in tandem, they can work in synergy to help speed up the treatment process by promoting the growth of healthy cells and reducing immune system complications.

By storing a combination of HSCs, MSCs and EpSCs, you are availing your children and family to be part of a medical revolution with access to the growing applications of stem cells and the therapeutic potential they hold.


Why should I save my baby’s cord blood?


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Data has shown that there is an increasing likelihood of using HSCs for medical treatments as one ages. With statistics also showing that 1 in every 217 persons may require a stem cell treatment in their lifetime3, storing your baby’s cord blood gives you the assurance of having a ready source of HSCs, should a time-critical situation ever arise. While it is possible to do a national or international search, the process can be both costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, the odds of finding a match for a transplant within the same racial group is around 1 in 20,0004.

There are also other sources of deriving stem cells, such as from a matched bone marrow donor and peripheral blood. However, the advantage of using cord blood stem cells is that they’re younger and more primitive, meaning these cells are faster in generating healthy cells, and are also more tolerant to tissue mismatches which may happen in transplants involving a donor.


Advantages of using cord blood over other sources:

Source Bone Marrow Peripheral Blood Cord Blood
Collection Multiple extractions Needs multiple growth-hormones injections Quick, painless & risk-free for both mother and child
Type of stem cell Adult Adult Perinatal*
Availability Donor search Donor search Readily available (for family bank)
Graft vs Host Disease High Risk Higher risk Minimal risk
Cost of obtaining a matching unit Can cost up to S$64,000 Can cost up to S$64,000 $0(100% ownership for family cord blood bank
*Definition of perinatal: pertaining to the period immediately before and after birth

By storing your baby’s precious cord blood, you are giving him/her ready access to his/her life-saving stem cells should the need for a stem cell transplant ever arise. As a baby’s cord blood is a 100% match for him/her, it is a guaranteed match for autologous transplants (where the donor and the recipient are the same individual) with no risk of post-transplant rejection.

His/her cord blood may also be used for an allogenic transplant (where the donor and recipient are different individuals) for his/her siblings/family members should there be a suitable match. Studies have shown that the 3-year overall survival rate for patients receiving related cord blood was 95% compared to 61% for patients who received unrelated cord blood5.

Now, for the hard part… How do you choose the right family cord blood bank?

Given the current and potential value that the stem cells in your baby’s cord blood holds, it’s important to choose the right family cord blood bank that you trust and know will be with you for the long haul. Here are some key factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right family cord blood bank to store your baby’s life-saving umbilical cord stem cells


Long-standing establishment

A family cord blood bank that has a long-standing establishment assures parents that their child’s precious cord blood stem cells are stored with a trusted and reliable partner who will be with them for the long-haul. With over 17 years of experience and establishment in Singapore, Cordlife is the 1st and largest family cord blood bank in Singapore.


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Accreditations

Choose a family cord blood bank which has been accredited by independent international bodies. The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, an educational resource for parents, recommends selecting a family cord blood bank that is accredited by international bodies such as American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT)6.

These accreditations ensure that the family cord blood bank adheres to the highest standards of quality when it comes to the handling, processing and storing of cord blood through regular and rigorous audits. It also ensures that your child’s cord blood stem cells will still remain viable should the need for transplantation ever arise. Cordlife is both AABB and FACT-accredited and is also 1 in 6 family cord blood banks worldwide to be internationally dual certified.


Transplant Track Record

Another important factor to consider is whether the family cord blood bank has a proven track record of releasing cord blood for transplants. A family cord blood bank with a proven track record and experience in successfully releasing cord blood for transplants is an indication that the cord blood stem cells are being stored according to the highest standards and will still be viable for transplantations.


Unique Service Offerings

Find out if the family cord blood bank has other services to offer as it means that you would be able to maximise the medical options for your child and family members.

Apart from storing cord blood stem cells, Cordlife is the sole provider of umbilical cord lining storage in Singapore and is also 1 out of 4 family cord blood banks worldwide licensed to store an additional 2 types of stem cells - Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Epithelial Stem Cells (EpSCs).

This increases your child and family’s medical options to possible therapeutic and regenerative applications in the future, especially for conditions that currently have no known cure.


Facility

A family cord blood bank that owns their own processing and storage facility is able to maintain direct control over critical services, quality, licensing and accreditations, thereby ensuring the well-being of the families whose cord blood units are stored under its care. It also provides the family cord blood bank with immediate access to its resources in the event of an emergency. Till date, Cordlife has over 17 years of experience and lab management expertise.


Financial Stability

Deciding to store your baby’s precious cord blood is a long-term decision. Public-listed companies offer financial transparency for increased assurance.

As storing your child’s cord blood stem cells is a life-saving investment, it’s important to ensure that the family cord blood bank is financially stable, has a good reputation and has many years of operation and experience. This is to ensure that they will be with you and your family for the long haul.

Some other factors to take note also include the family cord blood bank’s processing technology, customer service and enrolment process, just to name a few.

Setting aside budget to store your baby’s cord blood is a smart investment, but it will be a futile one if you pick the wrong family cord blood bank to safeguard it. So, be diligent in researching on the family cord blood bank’s certifications, reputation, facilities and technologies used to process and store your child’s cord blood unit, and you will be on your way to making a lifesaving investment for the future.


Written by Mummy Mylene


1 Diseases Treated page. Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation website. https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/diseases. Accessed July 16, 2018.

2 Diseases and Disorders that have been in Clinical Trials with Cord Blood or Cord Tissue Cells page. Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood website. Therapies in Clinical Trials. https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/diseases#trial. Accessed July 16, 2018.

3 Nietfeld JJ, Pasquini MC, Logan BR, et al. Lifetime probabilities of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in the U.S. Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. 2008; 14: 316-322.

4 Chew J. Criterion for new stem-cell transplant 50% match. The Straits Times. July 18, 2013: 12-15.

5 Bizzetto R, Bonfim C, Rocha V, et al. Outcomes after related and unrelated umbilical cord blood transplantation for hereditary bone marrow failure syndromes other than Fanconi anemia. Haematologica. 2010; 96(1):134-141.

6 Frequently Asked Questions page. Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood website. https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/faqs#q-18082. Accessed July 16, 2018.

This article was adapted from SuperMom, 25 August 2018.

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