After a woman gives birth, the placenta and the umbilical cord are generally discarded. However, research over recent years has revealed that both the placenta and the umbilical cord contain placental blood, also known as cord blood. The placenta and umbilical cord retains this blood even after the cord has been cut, and the reason why this cord blood is so important is because it contains special young cells known as stem cells. These stem cells produce red and white blood cells as well as platelets within the blood. The cells are vital to the health of our blood and immune systems, and the young stem cells that come from the placenta and umbilical cord are actually a very valuable resource that could save lives.
Many people have already benefited from stem cell therapy. Cord blood contains a rich stem cell content, and this could prove invaluable in saving lives. However, all too often the placenta and umbilical cord are thrown away after the birth of a baby and this valuable resource goes completely to waste. However, continued research and reports have raised awareness of the importance of cord blood, and more and more parents-to-be are realizing the implication of storing this cord blood rather than letting it go to waste.
You can now find a number of cord blood banks, which have been set up around the country. These banks enable parents-to-be to donate the cord blood following the baby’s birth, and the stems cells from the blood could end up saving a life in the future. And it’s not necessarily a complete stranger that might benefit from these stem cells. They can also be frozen and kept for use by the baby in the future or by siblings or other family members should the need arise. So, preservation of your baby’s stem cells could one day save your child’s – or even your own – life.
Stem cells are sometimes called the building blocks of the blood. They are very special cells, because unlike normal cells they are able to adapt within the body and go to wherever they are needed. For instance, liver cells serve only the liver, kidney cells serve only the kidney, and so on. Stem cells are not tied to any one organ or place, and can adapt to join any other type of cell group.
Stem cells are responsible for producing red blood cells (which transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body), white blood cells (which helps to fight disease and maintains the immune system), and platelets (which enable the blood to clot when required). This is another reason why the stem cell is so important, and why it is vital that parents-to-be stop wasting the cord blood following the birth of their baby. As well as being found in cord blood, stem cells are also found in the bone marrow and in the blood.
Another key characteristic of the stem cell is that it can renew and replicate itself through division – a process known as proliferation. Stem cells can proliferate over and over, and the cells produced by this process can remain non-specific or can join other cell groups, such as the kidney, heart, or liver cells. With stem cells playing such a vital role in the health of our bodies, many have welcomed the discovery that cord blood contains such a rich source of these cells. Stem cells are already being used to treat a number of diseases and illnesses, and it is thought that they could be used in the future for the treatment of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. Some of the cancer types already being treated with cord blood stem cells include:
Other disorders being treated through cord blood stem cell therapy include: