What is Cord Blood?
Remnants of blood remaining in the placenta and the umbilical cord are known as “cord blood”. This blood can be collected because it has stem cells, and these stem cells are now used to treat genetic conditions and diseases of the blood.
What is it used for?
Cord blood offers a rich source of stems cells, and these stem cells are used in potentially treating diseases such as anemia, lymphoma and leukemia. Cord blood is taken from the umbilical cord or the placenta of a newly born child. A syringe is used to collect the cord blood after the umbilical cord has been cut from the baby.
What’s in the Cord Blood?
Cord blood is rich in stem cells. Stem cells are cells found in multicellular organisms, such as humans. Stem cells are a special kind of cell as they posses the ability to renew themselves and produce more cells and they also have the ability to split into different kinds of cells. The ability for self-renewal and potency (differentiate into different kinds of cells) are the properties that make stem cells a great potential treatment for various diseases.
Example, stem cells’ property on self-renewal is useful in treating traumatic brain injury, brain damage and stroke. These condition cause significant injuries to the brain cells and since brain cells do not have the capacity to regenerate, the damage remains throughout life. When stem cells are introduced to these conditions, the stem cells can differentiate into new and healthy brain cells, replacing the ones that are damaged.
Stem cells’ ability to differentiate into other types of specialized cells is also seen to be beneficial in treating blood disorders and genetic conditions. In leukemia, for example, stem cells can be introduced to the bone marrow to stimulate production of healthy and functional white blood cells.
Other Applications of Cord Blood in Medicine
A number of research and clinical trials are now being made, exploring the potential of stem cell treatment. According to experts, stem cell treatment from harvesting cord blood may go beyond treatment of cancer, blood and genetic disorders. Experts and researchers are now looking into the possibility of using stem cell treatment in managing common conditions such as:
1. Type 1 Diabetes
Research conducted at the University of Florida is exploring the effects of stem cell infusion on children with Diabetes Type 1. Initial results of the study show that introduction of stem cells from cord blood can slow down the loss of insulin among children with Diabetes Type 1.
2. Repair of the Cardiovascular System
Stem cells derived from cord blood also possess a promising potential in promoting cardiovascular repair. Clinical trials involving animals show that stem cells can improve the condition of blood vessels to the heart and improve the heart’s function after suffering an infarction (a decrease in the blood supply to the heart due to a blockage).