You may be surprised to learn that preserving cord blood at birth is nothing new. For over 20 years expectant parents have been privately banking or donating their newborn’s umbilical cord blood, which is a rich, natural source of life-saving stem cells that isn’t tethered to any ethical, religious, political or moral issues. In fact, neither the mother or child are harmed in its collection.

Nothing new

While harvesting stem cells from bone marrow requires surgical procedure, cord blood stem cells are seamlessly obtained during the time of delivery, then cryogenically stored for future use. Stem cells from donated cord blood can regenerate organ tissue, blood and the immune system. They are already being used to treat and cure over 80 life-threatening diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia.

Since 2000, cord blood has remained the fastest growing source of stem cells in pediatric transplants, accounting for over half of those performed. In total, over 30,000 transplants using umbilical cord blood stem cells have been performed around the world. But there is still more room to grow. 7 out of 10 patients requiring a transplant do not have a suitable donor in their family, and a glance at the larger picture reveals how under-represented minorities and individuals of blended ethnicity are in the U.S.’s cord blood inventory. Last year, 29 percent of cord blood transplants were for minority patients. By increasing the diversity of blood units on the registry, we can assist more patients in need of a transplant.

Finding a way

Donating cord blood is free, though parents sourcing from private or family-banked cord blood do pay. Privately stored cord blood can be used for a sick sibling, blood-related family member or regenerative medicine purposes to treat cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury. The world needs both, and parents need to understand which option is best for them and why.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people may benefit from stem cell regenerative medicine therapy in the near future. There are already clinical trials underway to investigate such treatments for juvenile diabetes, hearing loss and autism, among others. The results of these trials will likely cultivate broader interest in cord blood stem cell treatments as a solution to a number of serious diseases facing children today.

Transplant triumph: Nancy’s story

Nancy’s story begins when her 10-month-old, Noah, started having chronic ear infections. A simple blood test revealed that his white blood count was dangerously low. At 2 years of age, Noah was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

"Stem cells from donated cord blood are already being used to treat and leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia."

Noah received his cord blood transplant on July 5th, 2013 when he was 3 years old. The cord blood he received had been donated by a family with no relation to his own. We are now celebrating Noah’s 2nd year post-transplant.

Making strides: Rachel’s story

Rachel privately banked her son Luke’s cord blood. Luke was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 12 months old. After his diagnosis, the family immediately started to research his treatment options.

At 15 months, he was treated at Duke University by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg with his own umbilical cord stem cells. After Luke’s transfusion, his parents started to see significant improvement in Luke’s balance, awareness of his right arm and decreased tightness of his right side. Luke is now 7 years old and enjoys swimming, playing baseball and riding his bike.