Cord blood represents a valuable source of stem cells. It can be harvested only at birth.
It is considered a “vehicle” which provides the necessary oxygen and nutrients essential to the growth and development of the fetus. It transports at the same time unnecessary substances (“waste”) resulting from tissue metabolism.
In fetal life, the placenta is the organ where the transfer of nutrients and oxygen from the mother toward the fetus is done, providing necessary support for it’s growth and development.
Immediately after birth and sectioning of the umbilical cord, there remains an amount of blood in the blood vessels in the umbilical cord and placenta.
It is possible to puncture the spiral umbilical vein in order to harvest the blood, called umbilical cord blood. The amount of blood available for harvesting is the amount of blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord after the last blood emission from the mother toward the child takes place . It varies in wide limits (20 ml up to 100/150 ml) and is strictly dependent only on the dynamics of birth.
Benefits of harvesting stem cells cells at birth:
- The harvesting procedure is simple, painless, with no risk to mother or fetus.
- Quick availability for transplantation of the graft is essential especially in severe cases and rapidly progressing diseases.
- The possibility of using graft stored for own use or for another family member.
- Lower risk of transmitting infections by latent viruses, important for the favorable post-transplant evolution. (eg. Risk of transmission of infection with CMV (cytomegalovirus) is 1% in umbilical cord blood versus 40-60% in bone marrow transplant from adult donors, the risk of transmission of infection with Epstein Barr virus is 0 for cord blood).
- The probability that a person during a lifetime of 70 years would require a graft transplant is 1: 200, the likelihood substantially increasing with age.
- The availability of stem cell grafts “young” at the time of harvest without risk of being affected by environmental factors, diseases, treatments, etc occurred during life.
- When using graft between siblings, the chances of immunological post-transplant complications are lower and less severe.