Context: A few days before her baby girl was born on June 20, 2023, Upasana Kamineni, wife of actor Ram Charan, announced on Twitter that she had chosen to preserve her baby’s cord blood. She’s not the first celebrity to have done so. A while ago, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan said she too, had saved cord blood.
What is Cord Blood
Umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. It is rich in stem cells, which are the building blocks of the body’s blood and immune system.
What is umbilical cord
The umbilical cord is the lifeline that connects the developing fetus to the placenta in the womb. Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, and the cord blood can be collected. This procedure is safe, painless, and non-invasive for both the mother and the baby.
How scientists want to use cord blood
Umbilical cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that have the ability to develop into different types of blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These stem cells are similar to those found in bone marrow, but cord blood is easier to collect and has a higher likelihood of being a suitable match for a patient in need.
Cord blood banking is the process of collecting and storing umbilical cord blood for future use. The collected cord blood can be frozen and stored in private or public cord blood banks. Private cord blood banking allows families to store their baby’s cord blood exclusively for their own use, while public cord blood banks make it available to patients in need of a stem cell transplant.
Umbilical cord blood stem cells have been used in the treatment of various diseases, including certain cancers, blood disorders, and immune system disorders. They can be used for autologous transplantation, where the patient receives their own stored cord blood, or for allogeneic transplantation, where the cord blood is matched with a compatible donor.
It’s worth noting that while cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells, its collection and storage may not be necessary for every family. The decision to bank cord blood should be made after considering the family’s medical history, potential future need, and available options. Consulting with a healthcare provider can provide more specific information and guidance.
Benefits of Cord Blood
- Stem Cell Transplantation: The hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) present in cord blood can be used to treat various diseases and disorders of the blood and immune system, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and certain genetic disorders. The preserved cord blood can be used for autologous transplantation (the patient receives their own stored cord blood) or allogeneic transplantation (the cord blood is matched with a compatible donor).
- Higher Chance of Match: This is because cord blood stem cells are more tolerant of HLA (human leukocyte antigen) mismatches, which are factors that determine compatibility between the donor and recipient. Preserving cord blood increases the chances of finding a matching unit for transplantation, especially for individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
- Future Medical Advances: Research on cord blood stem cells is ongoing, and there may be new therapies and treatments developed in the future that could utilize these cells. By preserving the cord blood, families can ensure that they have a valuable resource available if needed.
- Family Benefits: If a sibling or close family member requires a stem cell transplant, there is a higher chance of a suitable match within the family if cord blood has been stored. Additionally, some research suggests that certain conditions, such as cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes, may potentially be treated with cord blood stem cells in the future.