Posts Tagged ‘stem cells’

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Umbilical cord blood (also called cord blood) is the blood in the umbilical cord and placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Usually health care providers discard the placenta, umbilical cord and cord blood after a woman gives birth. But some families store the cord blood so it can be used later on to treat diseases. Storing cord blood is also called banking.

If you choose to store your baby’s cord blood, your provider collects it right after your baby is born. It doesn’t matter if you have a vaginal birth or cesarean birth (also called c-section).

How do you know if banking cord blood is right for your family?

If you’re thinking about banking your baby’s cord blood, talk to your health care provider before you give birth. Write your choice in your birth plan and share it with your provider.

You have two main options to store your baby’s cord blood:

  1. You can donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank. There is no cost to you to store your baby’s cord blood at a public bank. But the cord blood donation is used for research or to help others who need cord blood. If you or a family member needs cord blood, you can’t use the blood you donated. Not all hospitals allow cord blood donations to public banks. Visit the National Marrow Donor Program to see a list of hospitals that allow donation to public cord blood banks. The American Academy of Pediatrics (also called AAP) recommends donating cord blood to a public cord blood bank.
  2. You can store cord blood in a private cord blood bank. Cord blood stored in a private cord blood bank can be used by you, your baby or a member of your family if it’s ever needed. The chances that you or someone in your family may need to use your stored cord blood are very low – about 1 in 2,700. But if someone in your family has a health condition that may need to be treated with a stem cell transplant, storing cord blood may be a good choice. The cost for a private bank is about $2,000, plus a yearly fee of about $125, depending on the bank you use.

Visit marchofdimes.org to learn more about umbilical cord blood.

A peek at new brain research

Friday, August 5th, 2011

researchIs it possible to get the adult central nervous system (CNS) cells to regenerate neurons (nerve cells) after aging or injury? Current state of the science says no. However, a team of scientists led by a March of Dimes-supported researcher at Duke University Medical Center believes they’ve found a kind of “fountain of youth” that sustains the production of new neurons in the brains of rodents, which could also be present in the human brain. The existence of a vital support system of cells around stem cells in the brain could explain why stem cells by themselves don’t generate neurons in a lab dish, a major roadblock in using these stem cells for repair of CNS injuries.

“We believe these findings will have important implications for human therapy,” says Chay Kuo, M.D., Ph.D., George Brumley Jr. assistant professor of Cell Biology, Pediatrics and Neurobiology, and senior author of the study. Dr. Kuo is the recipient of a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from the March of Dimes.

The study is the cover story in the July issue of Neuron, published online July 14, 2011.  If reading scientific journals is not your thing, here’s what it says in a nutshell.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that the generation of new neurons depended on what Dr. Kuo calls the “ugly sibling” of the stem cells, the neighboring ependymal cell. These ependymal cells — not the neural stem cells themselves — maintain a special structure that keeps neural stem cells “neurogenic,” or able to make new neurons.

Currently, however, when neural stem cells are harvested for growth in culture, these ependymal cells are not removed along with them — and Dr. Kuo’s team believes this can be a problem.

Neural stem cells in a lab dish don’t continue to make neurons as they do inside the brain, Dr. Kuo says. Instead, they often produce astrocytes, a cell type that may not be helpful to re-implant into a brain. Uncontrolled astrocyte growth can lead to brain tumors.
 
“There is this fountain of youth inside the adult brain that actively makes new neurons,” Dr. Kuo says. “Yet we don’t know how this fountain is constructed or maintained. Understanding the environmental control of neuron production in the adult brain will be crucial for future therapeutic strategies using human stem cells to replace neurons.”

We should note that this is an animal study not yet confirmed in humans, but it holds great promise for the future. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Should we wait to clamp the umbilical cord?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A recent study suggests that it might be best for docs to wait a minute or two before clamping the umbilical cord after a baby is born.  It’s important to cut off the blood flow from Mom to baby at some point, especially before there is an opportunity for the flow to reverse itself. But waiting an extra 60 seconds or so might provide Junior with extra stem cells within the cord blood.  Stem cells are powerful and can grow into different types of cells the body needs.

According to Dr. Paul Sandberh, author of the study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, different studies on preterm infants have found postponing clamping the cord for 30 seconds or more reduced the incidence of anemia, intraventricular hemorrhage (brain bleeding), late-onset sepsis (a complication of infection in the days after birth), and decreased the need for blood transfusions. It may help prevent anemia in full-term infants. He refers to delayed clamping as “nature’s first stem cell transplant” – an intriguing thought.

You probably have read pros and cons of storing a baby’s cord blood. The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it is unwise to store cord blood in a private blood bank, unless your family has a history of a certain disease. The AAP and many scientists favor the collection and storage of cord blood in public banks so someone may have the opportunity of using stem cells in the future.  This recent study asks the question will delaying clamping the cord after birth provide a cord blood boost to babies now?

Dr. Sandberh believes that more needs to be learned about the timing of clamping off the flow of cord blood, and it’s worth investigating.  If you’re pregnant, you might want to have a conversation with your provider about when to clamp the cord when your little one arrives.

Another word on cord blood

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

In case you missed it, check out Pam’s post from last week on cord blood.  I find the whole thing fascinating. I’m not talking about the potential benefits of stem cell research either. I’m talking about the business behind it. Now that I’m expecting I’m targeted with advertisements on a regular basis to save my baby’s cord blood for personal use. Whether I’m flipping through a pregnancy magazine, shopping at a maternity store or watching TV, I can’t seem to escape the image of that little baby looking down at her belly button.

I’ve done a lot of reading (not including the pamphlets dropped in my shopping bag) and talked to my provider about it. Based on our family medical history, my husband and I decided against storing our babies cord blood in a private bank. We are very much in favor and interested in donating the cord blood however.

There is no cost to parents who donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank. However, this option is not available everywhere. The National Marrow Donor Program provides a complete listing of participating hospitals; the program’s phone number is (800) 627-7692. Parents who choose to donate their baby’s cord blood must complete a lengthy parental health and disease questionnaire. The mother also must have blood tests for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. In some cases, parents may have to pay for these tests if their insurance does not cover them.

Storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood: Is it a good idea?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

You’ve probably seen those ads. The ones that say something like this, “Save your baby’s cord blood and protect her from serious illness in the future.” Should you do it?

The December 22 issue of Newsweek has a good article on this topic. The story is called “When Medicine Meets Marketing,” and it asks an important question: “Is salesmanship outpacing science?”

Umbilical cord blood is the blood left in the cord and placenta after the baby is born and the cord is cut. It is a rich source of stem cells.

Stem cells can be used to treat some genetic disorders and certain cancers. More than 70 disorders have been treated with stem cells from cord blood. Parents can now store their newborn baby’s cord blood at private cord blood banks.

Sounds good, right? But here’s the catch. If a child does need a stem-cell transplant, his own stem cells usually are not the safest or best source of stem cells for treatment.

OK, then, “Who should store umbilical cord blood?” Families who have a history of certain genetic diseases may want to store cord blood in a private bank for their family members. Health care providers, including genetic counselors, can provide more information.

But for the rest of us, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend storing cord blood in private banks. Storage is expensive, and the likelihood of it helping the baby is small, maybe even nonexistent.

The ads from umbilical cord blood banks are everywhere these days. But think twice before storing umbilical cord blood. Talk to your family’s health care providers first.

Here’s an alternative. The AAP and many scientists favor the storage of cord blood in public banks. It can be used to help people who urgently need blood cell transplants.

To learn more about umbilical cord blood, read the March of Dimes fact sheet.