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Cord Blood and Tissue FAQs

What is cord blood and cord tissue?

During pregnancy, the placenta delivers “cord blood” to the baby through the umbilical cord serving as a lifeline of nourishment from the mother to baby. At birth, “cord blood” remains in the umbilical cord and placenta and until recently, had typically been discarded. The tragedy of this practice is that “cord blood” and cord tissue contain very special cells called “stem cells”. Your baby’s umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord are a valuable source of stem cells that are genetically unique to your baby and family.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the body’s building blocks or “master cells”. Master cells develop or differentiate into every tissue and organ in the body, including various organs (heart, liver, etc), immune metabolic and connective tissue, and muscle, fat, blood and neural cells (brain, spinal cord).

Stem cells can be used to repair damaged hearts, brains, and spinal cords, heal injury from strokes and heart attacks and minimize and/or potenitally cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and diabetes. Stem cells collected from your baby’s umbilical cord and umbilical cord blood after birth can protect your child in the future.

Why should I think about banking my baby’s umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue?

Both your baby’s umbilical cord and umbilical cord blood contain high concentrations of stem cells at birth.   When harvested and stored at birth, your baby’s genetic store of stem cells is literally frozen in time.   The advantage of freezing your baby’s stem cells in time ensures that they remain pure and intact, protecting them from biological and environmental degredation that otherwise naturally happens to stem cells in the body as your baby ages.  If these cord blood and tissue derived stem cells are not harvested at birth, their perfect immature and unadulterated state is lost forever. Stem cells can be harvested from adults, however, due to the biological and environmental degradation that they have endured naturally over time, they are not suitable candidates for clinical application.  Umbilical cord blood derived stem cells are currently being used in the treatment of over 50 diseases and conditions, and have been used in transplantation medicine for over 20 years.  For a complete list of the medical uses, please click here.

What types of diseases are treated with stem cell transplantation?

Follow this link to review all diseases and conditions treated with stem cells. Medical Uses

Are umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue stem cells different than other types of stem cells?

Yes. Umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue stem cells are the “most immature,” available form of stem cells that are gentecally unique to your baby and to your entire family. Umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue derived stem cells are also free of controversy associated with embryonic stem cells, another type of stem cell. Storing these cells essentially stops the clock and prevents aging and damage that would normally occur to cells as they age. A third type of stem cells is adult stem cells, such as those found in bone marrow. Bone marrow stem cells are “older” stem cells, and are less desirable as a treatment option because they are less readily available as they more difficult to harvest (involves putting the donor’s life at risk and they are associated with poorer treatment outcomes.

Why are doctors turning to cord blood instead of bone marrow?

Bone marrow is more difficult to obtain because:

  1. harvesting bone marrow involves putting the donor’s life at risk
  2. a perfect match between a donor and recipient is usually required because these cells are older. 
  3. better outcomes have been associated with the application of cord blood derived stem cells:
    • overall survival rates for related transplants are more than double that of transplants from unrelated donors.
    • Immediate availability of banked cord blood stem cells ensures that these stem cells are immediately available if your baby needs them.
    • lower incidence of Graft versus host disease (GVHD) Overall, patients who receive cord blood transplants from a relative experience significantly less (GVHD), than those receiving a bone marrow transplant. (GVHD) is transplant rejection and is the leading cause of death in stem cell transplant patients.
What is anticipated in terms of the application of umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue stem cells in the future?

Recent advances in medical research, have allowed us to identify stem cells as the building blocks of of every type of cell in our bodies. It is this this recent discovery that has fueled the intense interest in these stem cells lately. It is anticipated that cord blood stem cells will be considered for application in any condition that would require tissue regeneration due to injury or disease.

Umbilical cord blood derived stem cells have been used in transplant medicine for over 20 years.  Umbilical cord tissue derived stem cells have recently become the focus of many clinical trials. 

Current research is focusing on the medical application of stem cells in various cancers, regenerating of tissue: brain regeneration, heart regeneration, spinal cords, healing injury from strokes and heart attacks and minimizing and/or potenitally curing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and diabetes.

What is graft vs. host disease (GVHD)?

GVHD is one of the most common life threatening side effects of a stem cell transplant (bone marrow or other). GVHD occurs when the transplanted stem cells recognize the recipient’s body as foreign, and “reject” it. Cord blood transplants are assciated with significantly less GVHD than bone marrow transplants.

What is HLA matching?

Typing refers to six proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) that appear on the surface of white blood cells and other tissues in the body. These six HLA points, or loci, determine tissue compatibility between a patient and a donor. Although a perfect match would be best, studies have shown that cord blood transplants are successful, even when only three of the six loci match. 

How long can cord blood be stored and still remain effective?

Current advances in the technology for cryogenic freezing of stem cells has been proven safe and effective over many years of successful medical transplantation. To date, cryogenically preserved stem cells have proven viable after 25 years of storage. Cryogenic theory predicts that stem cells can be preserved indefinitely, since the molecular state of the stem cells have been suspended due to freezing.

How long has cord blood been collected for?

The first cord blood transplant was performed in 1988.

When is my baby’s umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue collected?

Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord at birth, immediately after your baby has been safely delivered.  The cord blood is collected once the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut.  Umbilical cord tissue is collected once the placenta has been delivered and inspected.  This blood and tissue is routinely discarded and collecting it does not alter normal birthing procedures. The collection can only take place at the time of delivery and is normally performed by your delivering physician/midwife or attending nursing staff.

How is my baby’s umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue collected?

Our goal at Cord Blood Bank of Canada is to help your physician/midwife collect as much cord blood and cord tissue as possible for your family.  Once your baby has been safely delivered and the umbilcal cord has been cut and clamped a portion of the umbilical cord is sterilzed.  A needle attached to a blood collection bag is then inserted into the umbilical vein and with the assistance of gravity, the umbilical cord blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta is collected.  Once your placenta has been delivered and inspected, the remaining portion of the umbilical cord is collected and placed into your Umbilical cord collection cup.

Is collection amount important?

Yes, with cord blood and cord tissue banking more is always better.   Larger stem cell samples have shown better survival rate in transplant. Although the actual amount collected is becoming less important with the increased development of stem cell expansion technologies. It is most important to have a stem Cell store available.

Is there any risk to my child or myself during collection?

No. The umbilical cord blood and cord tissue is collected after your baby has been safely delivered and once the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. The cord blood and cord tissue that is being collected is blood  and tissue that would otherwise be discarded. The collection is painless, easy, and safe for mother and baby. Your delivering physician/midwife will not alter their normal birthing process in any way, except to collect your baby’s cord blood. Cord blood collection takes about 5 minutes.

Does the hospital need to provide any materials for collection?

No. You will receive a personalized collection kit for your baby’s Biological Insurance™ umblical cord blood and umblical cord tissue collection. Your Biological Insurance™ kit contains all the items your delivering physician/midwife will need in order to collect your baby’s cord blood and cord tissue. You must however, remember to take the kit with you to the hospital when you deliver.

How does a C-section affect the collection process?

C-section collections are drawn directly from the umbilical cord. Your delivering physician/midwife can deliver the placenta into a sterile tray and then draw from the fetal side of the placenta. Studies comparing vaginal vs. cesarean delivery show that the collection volumes are comparable.

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