Saving Cord Blood Can Save Lives

Be Healthy

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord after babies are born. It is used to treat nearly 80 diseases including blood disorders, immune disorders and even cancer. This blood is rich in stem cells that are able to develop into many different cell types, which is why it is often used to replace cancerous cells with cancer-free ones. However, 95% of cord blood is discarded because people do not donate this lifesaving substance.

Bone marrow also contains stem cells but can be more difficult to use for transplants. That is because patients must completely match their donors’ human leukocyte antigens, which dictate individual tissue types. This typically only occurs with a sibling or parent. Even then, only 30% of people who need transplants find a match within their own families.

It is often more difficult for patients here in Hawai‘i because of our ethnic diversity. The percentage here is significantly lower with only 4% of Hawai‘i’s patients able to find a match.

The cells in cord blood, however, have a greater ability to form into different stem cell types than adult hematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow. In addition, donors and recipients do not need to be perfectly matched, so it is easier to find a donor. In fact, there is a 90% chance of finding a match for most patients and an 80% chance for those considered ethnically diverse.

 

 As with many other decisions expectant parents make, there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to cord blood banking.

 

Collecting cord blood is also less painful and quicker than bone marrow. Once a baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped, and then blood is drawn from the cord. It takes just minutes. In partnership with the Hawai‘i Cord Blood Bank, Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children offers the service for free. With Hawai‘i’s help, people around the world can be given a second chance.

Expectant parents can learn more about cord blood banking here.

 

 

Published on: July 29, 2022