Dr Paul Tan, Laboratory Director at Cordlife Group Limited answers your cord blood banking related questions.
WORDS DR PAUL TAN
I’m about five months pregnant and am considering banking my baby’s cord blood when she’s born. What are the benefits of cord blood banking? Is it really necessary?
As you prepare for the arrival of your baby, the health of your child will be your paramount concern. One of the most important medical decisions is what to do with the blood from the umbilical cord of your newborn.
A study has shown that 1 in 217 persons may need stem cells for treatment in their lifetime. Your baby’s cord blood contains a rich source of such stem cells which can potentially be lifesaving. Since 1988, doctors have used cord blood stem cells to treat more than 30,000 patients suffering from life-threatening diseases including blood disorders, cancers, immune system deficiencies, as well as conditions that are under clinical trials.
In Singapore each year, about 40 to 60 per cent of patients who require stem cell transplants are unable to find a suitable match from bone marrow donors and other public cord blood banks. The odds of finding a match in the same racial group is only 1 in 20,000. If it’s not collected at birth, your baby’s precious cord blood will be discarded and unavailable for personal use. Storing your baby’s cord blood with private cord blood banks increases the chance of having a matched unit readily available, and this could be a lifesaving decision for your little one and your family.
What are Cord Blood Stem Cells?
When your baby is born, his or her umbilical cord blood contains a very rich source of Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), also known as ‘precursor cells’, which have the ability to differentiate into different types of blood cells found in the body, namely: Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells and Platelets.
HSCs are the basic building blocks of our body that play a vital role for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system, potentially healing the body, promote recovery, and offer an enormous amount of therapeutic potential.
The Precious Medical Resource for Your Family’s Future Treatment of Diseases
Over the years, there has been an increase in using cord blood to save lives. Research on cord blood as potential treatment for diseases that currently have no cure are ongoing. Although HSCs found in cord blood can also be obtained from other resources such as bone marrow and peripheral blood, a more stringent match is required for bone marrow transplants, but not in cord blood transplants.
Stem cells from the cord blood which you stored for your baby are more naive, younger, more flexible, and a perfect match for him or her. It is also a ready source of genetically-related stem cells for the family members. Transplant patients recover better when they receive stem cells from a related person, instead of an unrelated person. Majority of parents including medical professionals are saving their baby’s cord blood as collection is safe and painless.