The placenta and the umbilical cord contain cord blood after birth. It is important for its richness in stem cells, the basic building blocks of the body, which can treat certain diseases due to their ability to convert into other types of cells that may have been destroyed by a disease.
In the light of the controversial use of stem cells from frozen embryos, cord blood is less controversial making it quite valuable. After a healthy baby’s birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, and the cord blood extracted by syringe. It may be preserved for the family’s future use or donated to a public blood bank.
Cord blood has so far been used as a replacement for a bone marrow transplant in leukemia patients. This has proved more successful because it is less invasive for the patient, and technically no donor is operated upon as cord blood comes from a woman who has just given birth. The leukemia patient’s probability of rejecting the new stem cells is very low because the young stem cells are yet to establish resistance to foreign substance. Controversially, for cord blood, some people become pregnant hoping to save the life of a family member.
Cord blood has become popular in treating many other cancers such as lymphoma. Other diseases include anemia, immune deficiency, metabolic conditions and numerous other diseases are being researched upon utilizing cord blood. There is potential in stem cells to treat diseases which are currently incurable such as diabetes and injuries like those to the spinal cord.