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When Is Cord Blood Used?

So the cord blood is now cryogenically (fancy word for using nitrogen to freeze things) frozen and banked, now what? Under what conditions would the cord blood be used? The stem cells found in cord blood are used mainly for transplants and stem cell research. Serious illnesses like certain cancers, immune system disorders, and blood diseases require blood transplants and transfusions.

when-is-cord-blood-used.jpgThe treatments used for these illnesses use radiation and/or chemotherapy to kill the diseased cells in the body. A serious draw back of this treatment is that it kills off the healthy cells along with all the sick ones — including the healthy stem cells that live in bone marrow and which are responsible for creating all the new blood cells for our bodies — most importantly the white blood cells. White blood cells are important for fighting off disease. If a way to help patients recover from cancer treatments helped the patient regain a natural count of white blood cells, their recovery can be a less worrisome experience.

Umbilical cord blood is especially useful for patients who are in need of a quick blood transplant. Cord blood units are stored ready-to-use as soon as they are unfrozen. It can mean the difference between life and death for the hard to find a donor match patient. As mentioned earlier, cord blood does not require a close or “perfect” match like bone marrow stem cells do. This is important with the number of transplants needed today throughout the world. In addition to traditional transplant therapy, cord blood stem cells are also currently being evaluated in regenerative medicine to repair, regenerate or replace damaged cells and tissues. Regenerative medicine may have the potential to treat diseases that affect millions of Americans.

Out of the different transplants, cord blood transplants are used more widely in children than in adults. The main reason for this, is because the umbilical cord blood holds only so much blood and the amount of blood-forming cells needs to match the size of the patient they are being transplanted into. Some cord blood units might not have enough stem cells for some of the patients who are much larger than a child. Even some larger bodied children, like teens, have more mass than a small bodied child of less than 10 years of age.

Doctors are currently studying ways to enable them to transplant cord blood to larger patients, like being able to give two cord blood units instead of one or finding a way to grow the number of cells in the cord blood unit in the laboratory before transplanting it to the patient. Since cord blood cells constantly divide, this is a possibility that is hoped to become a reality in the future.

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