Over the past 20 years, umbilical cord blood usage has increased and now treats over 80 diseases and illnesses. In addition, there are many studies underway to investigate the use of umbilical cord blood in treating other diseases.
Umbilical Cord Blood Banking
At birth, your baby’s umbilical cord contains tissues and blood, both rich with stem cells. Your OBGYN can collect the blood to be stored in a blood bank. While umbilical cord blood will always be a perfect match to your baby, there is a high probability that it will be at least a partial match for siblings or biological parents.
Public blood banks are free- with the stem cells used for research and available for public use. Private blood banks charge a fee to store the cord blood, which is available for your family’s use. Speak with your OBGYN about the pros and cons for each option.
Clinical Studies in Regenerative Medicine
The stem cells from the umbilical cord blood have a unique ability to find injured cells in the body and trigger self-healing. As a result, they have been successfully used to regenerate cells that are damaged due to disease, genetics or injury. There are currently several FDA-approved clinical studies for conditions, such as:
- Autism – currently in Phase II clinical trial at Duke University
- Cerebral Palsy – Phase II clinical studies showed improvement in gross motor function after receiving a dose of their own umbilical cord blood. Phase I study is now in effect to determine benefits of using cord blood from a sibling.
- Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1) – Phase I clinical studies demonstrated potential for cord blood to protect insulin-producing cells and helping them regrow. Additional studies will be needed to determine efficacy
Future Possible Applications
There are many potential applications for umbilical cord blood for brain injury, acquired hearing loss, cardiac problems and autoimmune disorders. While additional research and studies are required to determine efficacy, early stage research has shown potential to treat the following diseases and injuries:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Heart Repair
- Sports-related Cartilage Injury
Challenges in Studying Umbilical Cord Blood Usage
Clinical studies to investigate the efficacy of umbilical cord blood in treating certain diseases and injuries faces a major challenge due to a limited participant pool. It can be difficult to find a large enough sample of individuals suffering from the disease or injury and have banked umbilical cord blood.
If you have any questions about umbilical cord blood benefits or banking, ask your OBGYN.