What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are master cells that have the potential of becoming any type of cell in the body. One of the main characteristics of stem cells is their ability to self-renew or multiply while maintaining the potential to develop into other types of cells. Stem cells can become cells of the blood, heart, bones, skin, muscles, and brain etc. There are different sources of stem cells but all types of stem cells have the same capacity to develop into multiple types of cells.
The type of stem cell that is rich in umbilical cord blood is the same type that is rich in bone marrow. This type of stem cell gives rise to all the other blood cells and is the foundation of our bodies’ immune system.
White Cells: Fight infections
Red Cells: Carry oxygen
Platelets: Promote clotting and wound healing
Umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in the vein of the umbilical cord and placenta at the time of birth. Cord blood is rich in stem cells and Cryo-Cell’s umbilical cord blood stem cell service
collects, processes and cryogenically preserves these stem cells for potential medical use. Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat nearly 80 diseases with over 30,000 transplants worldwide.
Advantages of Cord Blood Stem Cells
Cord blood stem cells have a number of significant advantages over other sources of stem cells (such as bone marrow):
- Prompt availability
- Ease of collection with no risk to the mother or newborn
- More tolerant of tissue mismatches
- Reduced incidence of Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD), which is not a risk when the baby’s stem cells are used for himself/herself and less of a risk for blood related family members.
- Decreased risk of transmissible viral infections
- Ability to cross the Blood Brain Barrier and differentiate into neurons and other brain cells, which may be instrumental in treating some brain disorders
Characteristic 3 and 4 above are owing to the fact that cord blood stem cells are immunologically immature. In a layman’s term, it means that cord blood stem cells are not yet “trained” to function a certain way, so they are more accepting to other cells of a foreign body.
Characteristic 5 above is the reason why cord blood stem cells are dubbed “privileged”, for they are unexposed to most diseases and environmental pollutants, which can make bone marrow from an adult more difficult to use in transplants.
Most importantly, cord blood stem cells from your baby are a perfect match for him/her in the event it should ever be needed, and has a 1-in-4 chance of matching a current or future sibling. It is important to note that a perfect match does not imply that the stem cells will be useful to treat all diseases.
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), an unpredictable condition that happens when the donor's cells begin to attack the transplant recipient and can be fatal, is estimated to occur in 60-80 percent of transplants where the donor and recipient are not related.
The umbilical cord itself is a rich source of stem cells termed mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Mesenchymal stem cells have many unique functions including the ability to inhibit inflammation following tissue damage, to secrete growth factors that aid in tissue repair, and to differentiate into many cell types including neural cells, bone cells, fat cells and cartilage. MSCs are increasingly being utilized in regenerative medicine for a wide range of conditions including heart and kidney disease, ALS, wound healing and autoimmune diseases.
In order to preserve more types and quantity of umbilical cord stem cells and to maximize possible future health options, Cryo-Cell’s umbilical cord tissue service provides expectant families with the opportunity to cryogenically store their newborn’s umbilical cord tissue cells contained within substantially intact cord tissue. Should umbilical cord tissue cells be considered for potential utilization in a future therapeutic application, further laboratory processing may be necessary. Regarding umbilical cord tissue, all private blood banks’ activities for New York State residents are limited to collection, processing, and long-term storage of umbilical cord tissue stem cells. The possession of a New York State license for such collection, processing and long-term storage does not indicate approval or endorsement of possible future uses or future suitability of these cells.