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Cord Blood Collection

Cord blood is collected to harvest stem cells for stem cell transplants as a treatment for a variety of diseases. The blood is collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after the delivery of the baby.

The first successful umbilical cord stem cell transplant was performed in 1988 in France to a young boy with a condition called Fanconi’s anemia. Since the first cord blood stem cell transplant more than 2000 successful transplants have been performed worldwide.

Cord blood is obtained by drawing the blood out of the umbilical cord at the time of delivery after the cord has been cut away from the baby. The cord blood is transported to cord blood bank where it is frozen in liquid nitrogen freezers and maintained at minus 196 degrees.

There are currently two options for cord blood banking. In private banking, the family pays for for processing and storage of cord blood that can be used if the need arises. Public banking is when where cord blood is donated by a family and can be used by appropriately matched patients when needed. In the case of public banking the donor is screened for infectious diseases and genetic diseases so these can not be transferred to anyone else. At present, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages private banking because of the premise of trying to assess current and future likelihood of use of the stored blood.

What types of conditions can umbilical cord stem cell transplant possibly help?
Currently the following disease states have been successfully treated with umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants:

  • Leukemia – including myelogenous leukemia and lymphoblastic leukemia varieties
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Plasma cell neoplasm
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Precancerous conditions
  • Secondary myelofibrosis

Are there other conditions that are being studied for use with umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants? The areas of research on stem cell transplantation are wide and varied. Some of these areas are:

  • Stroke – Research at University of Minnesota showed a reversal of effects of stroke in mice. No human trials have been done yet.
  • Traumatic brain injury – Decreased neurologic deficits have been seen in rats in two studies.
  • Cerebral palsy – A recent study of 20 children in Europe showed mild to moderate improvement within five months of a stem cell transplant.
  • Spinal cord injuries – Studies of animals showed increase neurological function and moderate restoration of movement.
  • Parkinson’s disease – Early studies suggest some improvement and reduction of tremors.
  • Heart disease – One small study from Europe suggests repair of blood vessels within the heart and improved heart muscle cell function.
  • Diabetes – Regeneration of pancreas cells, increased insulin production and decreased diabetic neuropathy has been suggested.
  • Blindness – Early studies suggest help with injured limbus area of the cornea and three cases of cortical blindness showed moderate improvement in vision.

Presently there are statewide and regional umbilical cord blood banks. If you have questions about these banks and the banking process, speak with your physician or contact your hospital to see if it participates in a banking program

More about Dr. Aulds

Donald G. Aulds, MD is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and currently serves as the Medical Director for both the Women's Center and the Best Start Program of North Alabama. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Dr. Aulds completed his medical education at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA and his Internship and Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Aulds has been an active member of the Huntsville Hospital Medical Staff since 1980.