Submitted by Hunter H. Kerrison
First-time mother and cancer survivor, Kelli Brown was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin's disease. After six months of chemotherapy, Kelli became pregnant. A year and a half after being in remission, a baby girl, Cayleigh, was born.
During her pregnancy, Kelli's oncologist William Schmidt, MD, suggested she think about storing her baby's cord blood. Thus, providing both Kelli and her husband, Jeff, the security of knowing that should the need arise, a possible cure for mom and baby was just one call away. With Dr. Schmidt facilitating the process, Cayleigh's cord blood was successfully stored and is a readily available match for the Brown family should the need arise.
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following child birth and is routinely discarded with the placenta and the umbilical cord. A process called cord blood banking allows mothers to have their newborn baby's cord blood saved for potential medical uses.
Stem cells are "unspecialized cells" that can divide to become other types of cells. For example, a stem cell could be developed into a beating cell of the heart muscle or the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Thus enabling stem cells to heal a defective cardiovascular system by regenerating heart tissue or end a diabetic's dependence on insulin.
Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that can only be collected in the minutes following child birth.
Cord blood stem cells are a type of "insurance policy" produced during procreation. They live in a sanctuary site, the umbilical cord, linking the mother and baby. The virginal state of the umbilical cord blood stem cell translates to a better potential for cell division as they are young, resilient, and have not been exposed to any outside factors. Outside factors, such as bacteria and viruses, disrupt the cell and reduce the chance that it is a likely match for the candidate in need.
A child's own stem cells provide a perfect match if a transplant is ever needed. The chances of stem cells being a match for a child's biological brother or sister are one in four. (The odds for finding a match outside of the family are thousands of times greater.)
Research has shown that survival rates double when a person’s own cord blood or that of a family member is used, compared to using an unrelated donor sample from a public stem cell bank. Having your own private sample ensures immediate availability of a perfect or close match. Cord blood stem cells are easier to match for family members than bone marrow, thus increasing the chances that a family member can receive a stem cell transplant.
Obtaining cord blood or bone marrow through a national bank from an unrelated donor can cost more than $40,000.
"Aside from educating people about the benefits of cord blood storage, we are committed to making umbilical cord blood stem cell banking a possibility for all expectant parents – regardless of income," said Don DeLuca, Jr., CEO of South Carolina's only umbilical cord blood stem cell storage facility, CureSource. "We removed the cost obstacle by pricing ourselves below 1,000 dollars and offering a monthly payment plan."
The list of diseases involving stem cells in treatment is growing every year as researchers study this fascinating field. Some examples of these include: heart attacks, where stem cells have been infused into a damaged heart to repair tissue; coronary artery and vascular disease, where stem cells have been used to encourage new blood vessels to grow around the blocked arteries; nerve and brain damage, where researchers have recently found that human stem cells can mature into nerve cells; strokes, where researchers have found that infusing stem cells into rats improves brain function after a stroke or brain injury; and Multiple Sclerosis, where MS patients show improvement after stem cell infusion.