We celebrate health awareness days and months dedicated to spreading the word about a disease or a possible new solution because we at FindMeCure believe that information is power. Having knowledge about what’s going on in the medical world is crucial to finding the right option for you if there comes a time you have to make that choice. 

That being said, we’ll have to admit – more than spreading awareness about health crisis and risks, we love talking about innovations, research, and alternatives that could save lives. This is why we’re glad we can cover Cord Blood Awareness Month and bring an important piece of information to your attention. 

Once discarded as a waste material after birth, umbilical cord blood is now recognized as an invaluable source of blood stem cells used to treat children and adults with certain blood diseases and research on its use in adults is going strong. So what do we need to know about cord blood and the research focused on it? 

Cord blood refers to the blood contained in the umbilical cord and placenta – blood rich in blood-forming stem cells and it’s rather easy to collect. Blood stem cells have been used in the treatment of about 80 diseases for the past 30 years as they can produce all the other blood cells and even cells of the immune system. Compared to other blood cells collected from bone marrow, stem cells collected from the umbilical cord show fewer immune system incompatibilities which makes them not only safer and but more predictable. But what exactly is cord blood used for and what does recent research have to say about it?

Cord blood is currently only approved for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. The blood-forming stem cells found in cord blood are used for the treatment of blood cancers, immune system disorders, and blood diseases. The FDA, however, warns us that stem cells are not a cure-all, especially the blood-forming variety. This doesn’t stop researchers from looking into other possible uses for cord blood and there are some curious findings we’d like to share with you in case you’re ever considering storing cord blood after pregnancy (more on how you can do that in a second). 

Regenerative medicine

A new type of treatment is emerging thanks to clinical trials that look into the use of cord blood in regenerative medicine. Children with autism, cerebral palsy, and even some types of cancer could benefit from their own cord blood. Clinical research is still making small steps in this direction but specialists seem to believe in the potential of cord blood stem cells to repair damaged tissues or organs. Several clinical trials with promising early results seem to suggest that cord blood could hold the key to treating a number of diseases that severely impact longevity and quality of life. 

Stem cells from the child’s own umbilical cord are researched for their potential to treat brain injury as well as juvenile diabetes. Studies have a long way to go yet but so far the results seem promising – improved insulin production after treatment with autologous transplants (meaning that the stem cells belong to the patient themselves). Australian researchers believe that due to their flexibility and diversity, stem cells found in cord blood can actually be used for the treatment of more diseases than previously thought. Understanding and affecting the immune damage done to the pancreas in children with diabetes, according to Dr. Craig and her team can be the first step in finding a treatment. 

Another potential use of cord blood stem cells is in heart disease. Improving outcomes for patients following a heart attack is among the many paths medical scientists are researching. Other diseases that could benefit from stem cells treatment include Alzheimer’s, Lupus, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Rheumatoid arthritis, Stroke, Spinal cord injury and more under investigation. Yet again we see the potential of clinical research to find better treatments for complicated ailments and give people hope who would otherwise not have much to look forward to in terms of improved therapies. 

Cord tissue

There have been 150 clinical trials since 2007 looking into cord tissue stem cells’ potential to treat damaged cartilage, muscle and nerve cells, and the related conditions. Although cord blood, the FDA cautions us, has not yet been approved for other uses besides hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, research is gaining new data and it could soon change existing guidelines if enough evidence for other beneficial treatments is presented. 

Storing cord blood

So let’s try to answer the question you might have at this point – should you store cord blood and if you choose to do so, how? 

Not only your baby or a sibling but an unrelated recipient can benefit from the cord blood you might choose to store. You can store cord blood in a private bank in case your child, their sibling or a first or second-degree relative needs it in the future. Private banks, however, charge fees for storing the cord blood and you might want to do your own research if you’re weighing your options. 

You can also donate. Donating cord blood is safe for you and your baby, comes with no fee (but check guidelines in your country) and it’s stored in a public bank in case a patient needs a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Cord blood is regulated in different ways, depending on the source and the way it’s going to be used. For example, if the cord blood comes from an unrelated donor, it’s considered both a drug and a biological product. Do your research before you make a decision but keep in mind that collecting cord blood is safe for both mother and baby and it can be a life-saving treatment for someone who really needs it. 

Clinical research is turning some of our most futuristic dreams about medicine into reality every day. If you or someone you know suffers from one of the dozens of diseases that there is no treatment for, don’t give up all hope – even if you ultimately you opt out of participating in a clinical trial, new treatments currently under investigation will sooner or later become available outside of trials. If you want to be a part of the process, however, you can search for an alternative on our website. FindMeCure comes up with 126 clinical trials investigating the use of cord blood to treat various diseases. You can join one of them and help researchers gain invaluable data while receiving an innovative treatment under medical supervision.    

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