Mediaplanet How is cord blood used today?
Dr. Clifford Librach There are over 80 diseases which can be treated using cord blood presently. These include leukemias, other blood diseases, and many other conditions.

MP How is cord blood collected?
CL A doctor, midwife, or nurse collects cord blood stem cells at the time of birth, once the umbilical cord is clamped and the baby is born. A needle is placed into a blood vessel of the cord and the blood drains into a sterile bag. Some cord blood banks offer families the ability to collect a different kind of stem cell, isolated from the umbilical cord tissue itself. Both the cord blood and cord tissue are normally considered waste material and are usually discarded. The collection of cord blood and umbilical cord tissue is simple and safe, with no risk to the mother or baby.

MP How long should a family keep the cord blood, once stored?
CL There is no limit as to how long cord blood can be stored. Since cord blood and cord tissue uses are expanding through ongoing research into the realm of adult diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and spinal cord injury - many families are keeping their cells into adulthood. A baby heals more rapidly and efficiently compared to an elderly person. Imagine having the benefit of your cells from when you were born to use for disease treatments as you grow older.

MP What is the difference between family and public banks?
CL Family banks allow you to bank your baby’s cord blood for that child’s use for a family member, and they can receive samples from any hospital in Canada. Public banks are set up to only receive samples from select hospitals if you wish to donate your baby’s cord blood for others to use. The difference is analogous to purchasing insurance for your family vs. donating to charity. For approximately 99 percent of births in Canada, which take place outside of these select hospitals, there are only two choices: bank it for your family or discard the umbilical cord blood and tissue.

MP What does the future hold for cord blood banking?
CL  There are over 900 registered clinical trials worldwide involving cord blood, with tremendous potential for new uses. Some diseases being studied currently are Type 1 diabetes, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and autism. Technologies have also been developed to expand cord blood cells to allow for multiple uses and for large adults, and expanded cells are being used in clinical trials. Cord tissue cells are showing promise for use in regeneration of body structural tissues like bone, cartilage, and muscle. There is also research supporting that the type of cells isolated from umbilical cord tissue can enhance transplant efficiency and success of cord blood cells when used together.