Did you know that cord blood could possibly save lives? So, bank it; don’t waste it.
WORDS CHERYLENE RENEE
Cord blood is rich in Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs). The versatility of these cells makes cord blood a precious resource, one that has the potential to even save the life of your child or family member in the future.
“These stem cells have been successfully used to treat blood-related cancers as well as certain immune deficiencies and genetic diseases,” says William Hwang, medical director at the Singapore Cord Blood Bank. “Haematopoietic stem cells in cord blood can be used to treat diseases such as leukaemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders,” he adds.
HSCs can also be used to replace damaged bone marrow, or regenerate healthy marrow, says Dr Li Ming Ming, laboratory director at Cordlife Group Limited, a private cord banking facility in Singapore. Searching for a matching bone marrow donor can be a nerve-wracking process. In such a scenario, having a bank of stem cells on hand is not only much more efficient but also provides a better chance of a match if the recipient is a family member.
“Storing your child’s cord blood at birth is a long-term safeguard for your family. By having a ready source of genetically related stem cells, it compares well against having to conduct a national or international search which can be costly and time-consuming during a time-critical situation,” advises Dr Li.
Apart from HSC, there are two other types of cells that can be separately harvested from your baby’s umbilical cord lining – Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) and Epithelial Stem Cells (EpSC). Both can potentially play big roles in life-saving treatments.
“These are currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of conditions such as diabetes, stroke and spinal cord injury, to name a few,” says Dr Li. If you decide to store your baby’s cord lining, then a portion of the cord will be collected during the cord banking process as well.
Safeguarding Your Family
Over the years, it has become increasingly affordable to store your baby’s cord blood. In Singapore, expectant parents can even use their Child Development Account (CDA) when planning to bank at private cord blood banks. Whether you choose to bank or not is a personal decision, but it should be something all expectant parents should consider.
It may only take a few minutes to collect your baby’s cord blood, but doing so, as Dr Li puts it, “is a lifetime of protection for your family.”