Expectant parents today have the fascinating option of preserving newborn stem cells from the umbilical cord blood and cord tissue without any harm or form of invasiveness to the mother or baby.The stem cells contained within can provide the opportunity for the baby to use it in the future for two types of medicine – transplant medicine or potential regenerative medicine.Transplant medicine is the concept of using the hematopoietic stem cells to reconstitute the immune system when a patient is faced with a condition like lymphoma, leukemia, or sickle cell anemia. In most cases, transplant medicine benefits an older sibling or close relative, because of genetic matching requirements. For families with a qualifying medical need, CBR provides banking free for five years as part of their Newborn Possibilities Program. One way for doctors to identify conditions where cord blood may be indicated can be through a heel screening metabolism test, the very first screening for genetic diseases. Today there is more of an extensive list of genetic diseases than there used to be (now 80+), which is what transplant medicine would be used to treat and is continuing to evolve.

The concept of regenerative medicine is to help the body heal itself. Both cord blood and cord tissue are being investigated in clinical trials for their potential use for conditions that have no cure today. Mesenchymal stem cells (muscle, skin and bone) found in cord tissue are of interest because of their ability to modulate the immune system.

Transplant medicine is the type of medicine previously referred to a finding a “cure,” for something. Once your body utilizes this cure it either accepts or rejects this cure as part of a reaction. An important factor in the ability to utilize cord blood stem cells is genetic matching. The baby is a 100% match to their own stem cells, while full siblings have a 50% chance of being a full match and a 25% chance of being a partial match (up to 75% in total). Parents are always half matches, as they each contributed half of the DNA. Another interesting thing about the transplant route is that once the body utilizes the cure for one thing, it cannot be utilized for another cure down the road that the body may or may not develop. The ultimate use of the newborn stem cells would be up to the treating physician, whether for transplant or regenerative medicine. As regenerative medicine uses are still in research, those would generally be performed as part of a clinical trial or expanded access protocol for things like autism, cerebral palsy, or hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The company has a team of genetic counselors to help guide families who may be facing a medical condition and need support as it pertains to newborn stem cells.

With the current Covid outbreak, this company is choosing to focus on more of the affects of the disease than the cure or prevention of the disease, which may suggest that they are continuing to look at developing the regenerative medicine route. What I wanted to know more is are they looking at respiratory outcomes, kidney outcomes or what they are already working on now that we are all in a shelter in place mode and people are now working more out of their own homes. However, Covid is an exciting time according to CBR which means that Covid isn’t a distraction and may even open up more avenues for research or advancement in medicine. Transplant medicine has been used for 40 years, and people are grappling with the decision to store something because of the issue that something is regenerative whether that be a disability, something that is lost in life, stem cells themselves, even cartilage, and it can be life enhancing.

The payment for this program or product takes place over a lifetime ideally. However the payment structure for the first year is more for banking purposes. After that, the yearly fee is more of a long term storage fee until the sample(s) were used in a clinical setting. The amazing thing is that the vast majority will use this product for the what ifs in life, they are able to get everything they need in the hospital for their baby, and once it is collected they can never go back and collect what is collected at the moment of birth again. In some states donation to a public bank as part of BeTheMatch’s donor program may be an option, however, it is not available at most hospitals and once donated, ownership is given up and it can be used on a first come first serve basis to help someone else in need who is a genetic match.  

Cord blood collection is also unique because unlike bone marrow harvesting, this is a non-invasive process. However, they both yield hematopoietic stem cells for use in transplant medicine. Bone marrow also is more difficult to genetically match to, requiring a 10/10 match vs with cord blood as low as a 4/6 match.

Have your owlet monitor ready on the day your baby comes home, enter here for an owlet monitor giveaway hosted by cord blood registry. Owlet monitor is a nice tool to help you track your baby’s heart rate and oxygen.