ORLANDO, Fla. (KFSN) --After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, ever wonder where that umbilical cord ends up? Most of the time, it becomes waste. But that cord has some valuable resources that can save a life. The blood that is found in it is called umbilical cord blood or cord blood for short.
It contains all the normal elements of blood, such as red and white blood cells and it is also jam packed with stem cells, similar to the ones found in bone marrow. Here are some benefits of using cord blood in treating diseases, such as leukemia or sickle cell disease.
According to James E. Baumgartner, MD, a pediatric surgeon at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida, "Birth is pretty exciting, it's pretty dramatic. A lot of things are happening."
One of those things that people rarely hear about is the option to donate cord blood. Bone marrow and cord blood contain the same type of stem cells, but those from cord blood have more advantages. Since stem cells from cord blood are less mature than stem cells from an adult's bone marrow, a recipient's body is less likely to reject them.
Another benefit is that taking cord blood is less invasive than a bone marrow transplant. Once an umbilical cord is clamped, it is wiped with antiseptic and a needle is inserted into one of the veins to withdraw a few ounces of blood. The procedure takes just a few minutes and is painless.
"We all collect prospective data to look for risk for lung damage, kidney damage, liver damage, heart damage. We're looking at the nervous system pretty carefully and we found nothing. So that we really believe that it's safe," Baumgartner told Ivanhoe.
About 70 percent of patients who need a stem cell transplant don't have a matching donor in their own family, which leads to the main advantage of cord blood. Stem cells from cord blood don't need to be exactly matched to the patient like bone marrow transplants from adult donors
One drawback to cord blood though is that the number of stem cells available is relatively small. Thus young children benefit more often than adults when it comes to cord blood transplants because they need less. Families can either save cord blood for possible use in the future for themselves or donate them to a bank.
So for future mothers who want to donate, here's what you need to do: talk to your doctor at least three months before your due date to find out if you are eligible to donate cord blood.