CORD BLOOD: What is it & What can it Treat?

What is cord blood?

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born and the cord is cut, separating the baby from the mother. This blood is the baby’s blood.

The umbilical cord connects an unborn baby to the placenta.  The umbilical cord pumps oxygen and nutrient rich blood from the placenta to the baby, and brings back the oxygen and nutrient depleted blood to the placenta once it has circulated through the baby’s body.  It contains one vein, which brings the blood from the placenta to the baby, and two arteries, which bring the blood back from the baby to the placenta.  The tissue surrounding these umbilical cord vessels is called “Wharton’s jelly”.  The placenta, umbilical cord, and the blood in both are all genetically identical to the baby, not to the mother.

Umbilical cord blood is rich in Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), which are currently the most therapeutically valuable stem cells. HSC’s can replace bone marrow by differentiating into cells that can produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These new cells produce the cellular ingredients necessary for the blood and the immune system and can rapidly create new blood for a patient. HSCs are currently being used to treat over 80 different blood, immune, and bone diseases 1.

In addition, new cord blood transplant treatments are being actively researched and implemented worldwide.  Thus, it is becoming increasingly likely that cord blood banking will provide protection for your family.

Learn More About the Science.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are simply “undifferentiated” cells, which have the potential to develop into other mature cells.  All of the cells in our body are derived from stem cells.

Umbilical cord blood is a rich resource of hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells are the “building block” cells of all of the blood components.

Learn More About the Science.

Are there different types of stem cells?

There are different kinds of stem cells, and they are found in different places and at different times in embryonic development.

Pluripotent or embryonic stem cells are found in one of the very first stages of embryonic development, the blastocyst stage, when an embryo is 4-5 days old.  These cells have the potential to differentiate into all of the different cells in a baby’s body.

Embryonic stem cells are harvested from embryos created during an IVF cycle, but not transferred.  They are widely used experimentally.

The hematopoietic stem cells found in the baby’s cord blood are different. They are not as primitive as the pluripotent stem cells since they have already started to become blood stem cells. They can, however, rapidly and efficiently create new blood for a patient. The stem cells found in cord blood have been used to regenerate new blood in patients who have blood diseases. The uses for hematopoietic stem cells, which are not considered controversial, have grown dramatically over the years.  Cord blood is currently the standard of care for many blood diseases.

Cord tissue yields a third  type of stem cells, called Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). Not to be confused with the stem cells derived from cord blood (Hematopoietic Stem Cells, or HSCs), MSCs are multipotent cells that differentiate into a variety of cell types including: osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), myocytes (muscle cells), and adipocytes (fat cells), in an embryo.  Clinical trials are currently underway to see if they can be made to develop in a way that is medically useful in the laboratory.

Learn More About the Science.

What are the current & potential uses for Cord Blood Stem Cells?

Until recently, it was assumed that hematopoietic stem cells, obtained from cord blood, could only be used as building blocks for blood cells. These stem cells were thought to be useful only in treating blood diseases. If you look closely at the list of current treatments for which hematopoietic stem cells are used, all of them are diseases of the blood.

Recently, cord blood research has discovered evidence that suggests that, under the right circumstances, cord blood may be conditioned to “change” into the building blocks of organ tissue. If that is truly the case, then the potential uses of cord blood stem cells will potentially be extraordinary, including treatment for everything from breast cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

If this potential is realized, then saving cord blood can contribute to your child’s health well into adulthood.

Learn More About the Science.

Are Cord Blood Stem Cells controversial?

The hematopoietic stem cells found in the baby’s cord blood have already started to become blood stem cells and have been used to regenerate new blood in patients who have blood diseases. The uses for hematopoietic stem cells, which are not considered controversial, have grown dramatically over the years.

Pluripotent stem cells that are present in early embryos are the most basic stem cells. Since they are so primitive (or undifferentiated) they can actually create and form new tissue and new organs. This is what makes them so medically useful. Because they are harvested from embryos, usually leading to the destruction of the embryo, the future harvesting of stem cells is controversial.

The Stem Cell Controversy is Not Over Cord Blood Stem Cells

The stem cells found in the baby’s cord blood are fundamentally different. They are not taken from an embryo, but rather from an umbilical cord (which is generally discarded) after a baby’s birth. There is no controversy about collecting and storing cord blood stem cells because the cord blood would otherwise be medical waste.

There is no controversy about the ethics of cord blood banking.

Learn More About the Science.

A Brief History of Cord Blood Banking & Transplant

What are the key milestones in the history of cord blood banking and cord blood stem cell transplantation?

Mid-1980s:

  • Dr. Hal Broxmeyer, of Indiana University (Indianapolis, IN), analyzed human cord blood for the presence of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC’s) and progenitor cells. He envisioned using these cells for transplant to reconstitute the human hematopoietic system.
  • Dr. A.D. Auerbach, of the Rockefeller University (New York, NY), showed that prenatal diagnosis could be used to rule out Fanconi anemia in the unborn sibling of a child with Fanconi anemia, setting the stage for the first cord blood stem cell transplant.13   The fetus would have a 75% chance of not having the disease, and if so, once born the infant’s cord blood could potentially be transplanted to the affected sibling.

1988:

  • The first related cord blood stem cell transplant was performed in 1988 in Paris, France, in a procedure led by Professor Eliane Gluckman. The patient was a child with Fanconi anemia and the donor was an HLA-identical sibling shown by prenatal testing not to have the disease. (Since the genes for Fanconi anemia and HLA type are on different chromosomes, this is quite possible.) The transplant was successful, without Graft vs Host Disease (GvHD), and the patient was alive and free of disease more than 15 years after the transplant. The donor stem cells fully reconstituted the patient’s hematologic and immune system.14,13

1992: 

  • Transplantation of umbilical cord blood from an HLA-identical sibling to treat a child with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) was reported.15 The recipient had first been treated with myeloablative therapy to destroy existing HSCs. (Basically, all of the cells in the sick sibling’s bone marrow were intentionally destroyed with .)  The donor stem cells successfully engrafted in the recipient’s bone marrow and were documented in the circulating blood. This case showed that umbilical cord blood contains sufficient numbers of HSCs to treat children with leukemia following myeloablative therapy. Unfortunately, in this patient the CML recurred. 
  • The first HLA-partially matched cord blood transplant (not a complete match of all six tested HLA antigens; see Glossary for definition of HLA system) to treat a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

1995: 

  • An umbilical cord blood transplant in an adult with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) was reported. 16 A 26-year-old patient received a cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor after myeloablative therapy. The cord blood was obtained from a public blood bank. The donor-recipient pair were a 5/6 HLA match. The donor’s stem cells successfully engrafted and the recipient’s peripheral blood was completely replaced by donor-derived blood cells. Eight months after the transplant, the patient had no evidence of CML. 

1996: 

  • Unrelated umbilical cord blood transplants in children were reported.17 Twenty-five children with various malignant and non-malignant diseases received cord blood transplants from unrelated donors. One donor-recipient pair was a perfect (6/6) match, 20 had one mismatch (5/6), three mismatched at two HLA sites (4/6), and one pair mismatched at three sites (3/6). Twelve of the 25 children (48%) survived and did not have a disease-related event for The study demonstrated that partially mismatched (at 1 to 3 HLA sites) cord blood transplants from unrelated donors were a possible, though imperfect, source of stem cells which could sometimes reconstitute the hematopoietic system.
  • Report of successful umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant in a child with sickle cell anemia was published. 18 The patient received cord blood cells collected from a sibling who was an identical HLA match, and was a carrier of the sickle cell trait, but did not have the disease. Complete donor cell engraftment was reported, with no graft-vs-host-disease.  The recipient was cured of sickle cell anemia.

2000:

  • A published study shows less risk of both acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease with umbilical cord blood transplants from HLA-identical siblings compared to bone marrow transplants from HLA-identical siblings, establishing the superiority of cord blood HSCs to peripheral blood HSCs. 19

 2001-Present:

  • Fifteen years of basic science and clinical research, and accumulated experience with individual cases of cord blood stem cell transplantation, demonstrates successes and promise of using cord blood to treat a variety of hematologic, immunologic, genetic, and malignant diseases.
  • An estimated 30,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been performed to date, targeting at least 80 different disorders.
  • Within the past decade, researchers have begun to examine the effectiveness of using cord blood transplantation to treat a broader range of disorders including, for example, type I diabetes, cerebral palsy, autism, sickle cell disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and metabolic disorders.
  • Since the mid-2000s, clinicians have been optimizing approaches that use two of cord blood for adult transplants. Scientists have also been developing methods to multiply the number of stem cells in a single unit of cord blood, prior to transplantation, to allow for expanded dosing and transplants in larger individuals.

CORD TISSUE: What is it & Why is it important?

What is Cord Tissue?

Cord tissue surrounds the blood vessels in the umbilical cord.  Like cord blood, cord tissue also contains stem cells with potential medical uses.

The stem cells present in cord tissue differ from those in cord blood. Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are non-hematopoietic (blood forming) stem cells. In the developing embryo, MSCs divide and develop into many different types of cells in the body. Almost every organ and tissue in a child’s body developed from MSCs.

The MSCs collected from umbilical cord tissue are a perfect match to the baby, and could be a partial match to siblings and possibly other relatives. Matching of MSCs is based on the same HLA antigens which are present in all of the cells in a child’s body, just like the HSCs collected from cord blood.

Learn More About the Science.

Why is umbilical cord tissue important?

Hundreds of clinical trials worldwide are evaluating the potential for MSC-based cell therapy to treat a variety of diseases and for tissue repair and regenerative medicine. 9 In the laboratory, human MSCs have been shown to be able to mature to form osteocytes (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage), adipocytes (fat cells), hepatocytes (liver cells), pancreatic cells (islet cells that produce insulin), and neuronal cells (which make up nerves). 9

Research is continuing to determine how best to use MSCs for transplantation, including optimal doses, routes of administration, how and when they are most likely to engraft, and where they go when they are introduced into the circulation. 11

Ongoing studies to explore the potential therapeutic uses of MSCs are focusing in particular on their role in stimulating healing and tissue repair and regeneration. For instance, clinical trials are investigating the use of MSCs to repair extensive bone breaks and damaged cartilage, and for treating spinal cord injuries and diseases that affect cardiac or skeletal muscles. The regenerative potential of MSCs is the focus of ongoing clinical studies in patients with type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease, and many others.

Evidence published in the scientific literature suggests that umbilical cord-derived MSCs might have a therapeutic advantage over other sources due to their more primitive, proliferative, and immunosuppressive characteristics, especially for treating autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases.

There are over 50 medical trials that are researching the use of Cord Tissue to treat diseases such as Autism, Type 1 Diabetes, Heart Disease, HIV, Alzheimer’s, Liver Disease, and many more.

Learn More About the Science.

WHY COLLECT BOTH CORD BLOOD & CORD TISSUE?

What is the potential of cord blood and tissue banking?

MSCs and HSCs — derived from cord tissue and cord blood, respectively — are different kinds of stem cells that have different potential therapeutic uses. One cannot be used in place of the other.

Collecting cord tissue at birth and banking it for future medical use provides an available resource of genetically matched MSCs. Collecting cord blood does the same for HSC’s.  Thus, banking both cord blood and cord tissue would make both HSCs and MSCs available for future use, increasing both the child’s and the family’s potential treatment options.

Intensive research efforts are underway worldwide to develop new techniques for using MSCs from cord tissue for transplant. Clinical studies are ongoing in a broad and expanding range of diseases and medical conditions for which HSC’s from cord blood may be used.  The future for the use of both of these types of stem cells is very bright and exciting.

Learn More About the Science.

What is the likelihood our child/we will need it?

Cord blood stem cells are instrumental in the treatment of many diseases, and the list is continually growing. Therefore, the answer to the above question is complicated. Stem cells are harvested from cord blood, which are then used to treat disease.

Cord Blood Stem Cells Or Cord Tissue May Be Needed By Your Child

There is no consensus among experts in the field of cord blood stem cell research as to the probability that your child will need the cord blood stem cells. Cord blood websites show that the probability of your child needing his of her stem cells may range from 1 in a 1000 to 1 in 2.

Probably, the most honest answer available is that it is estimated that 1 out of 450 individuals will use their cord blood by age 70. That is the number that has been established by non-biased leading experts in the field of stem cell research.

If cord blood stem cells are found to be useful in the treatment of common debilitating conditions or diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer the odds of the usage will go way up. The chance of your child needing the cord blood stem cells could rise to 1 out of 2. Consequently, storing cord blood is a good way to protect your child’s future.

Learn More About the Science.

CORD BLOOD COLLECTION & PROCESSING: HOW IS IT DONE?

How is cord blood & tissue collected?

Immediately after the baby’s birth, a physician or nurse will collect one bag of umbilical cord blood, which is approximately 100 ml. or 5 oz. The cord blood will be collected after the umbilical cord has been cut and either before or after the placenta has been delivered. There is absolutely no risk or pain to the mother or baby involved in collection of cord blood. Collection takes place after the baby is born and does not in any way interfere with the birth.  Additionally, the physician will draw three tubes of the mother’s blood for testing.

You, or your partner, will notify us that the cord blood collection is done; then a medical courier will be dispatched to the hospital. This courier will bring the cord blood collection kit containing the cord blood and the mother’s blood to our processing facility.

The cells in cord blood remain stable for up to about 72 hours after collection at room temperature, during the time they are transported from the site of the birth to the laboratory.

Learn More About the Science.

How is the cord blood & tissue processed?

In the lab, the technician will:

  • Reduce the volume of the blood to about one quarter of the collected volume (approximately 25 ml or 63 oz.) by removing a large proportion of the red blood cells and plasma (liquid portion of the blood). The red blood cells and plasma do not need to be stored as they do not contain stem cells.
  • Analyze the cord blood to determine how many transplantable cells are present and create a report with this information. This information will be useful in case you need to use the cord blood later.
  • Add cryopreservative (special chemicals to help in the freezing process) to the remaining stem cell collection.
  • Slowly chill the bag at a rate of 1º centigrade (C) per minute until it reaches the optimal freezing temperature of -130º C (-320º Fahrenheit).
  • Transfer the stem cell collection into storage.
  • Run the mother’s blood through a wide variety of tests to ensure that there are no diseases present at the time of delivery that could have transferred to the child’s cord blood.

Learn More About the Science.

PRICING: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

How much does it cost to store cord blood?

Cord blood banking costs $2,490, which includes processing, 20 years of free storage, and free shipping. We do not have any annual storage fees or hidden costs.

Check out our price comparison chart.

How much does it cost to store cord blood and cord tissue?

Banking for cord blood and cord tissue costs $3,490 which includes processing, 20 years of free storage, and free shipping. We do not have any annual storage fees or hidden costs!

Check out our price comparison chart.

Do you have any payment plans?

Yes, we do. We’re happy to participate in the Care Credit payment program, which is a 12-month, interest-free, payment plan. After you submit the $100 registration deposit, patients who are approved for a Care Credit plan can pay a steady monthly amount, interest-free, over 12 months! This payment plan may not be combined with any other discounts or coupons. Please visit www.carecredit.com or call (866) 893-7864 to apply.

Does Maze offer additional storage, beyond the initial 20 years that are included?

Yes, we do! We offer our customers the option of adding an additional 5 years of storage, for a total of 25 years. Extra 5 years of storage for cord blood only is $425, and extra 5 years of storage for cord blood and cord tissue is $625.

When do I have to make my payment?

There is a $100 deposit required upon registration, which is deducted from the total cost due. Once your baby has been born, and the cord blood has been processed, you will be charged the remaining balance in full.

If you are participating in the Care Credit monthly payment plan, you will receive your first bill shortly after your baby is born, and the cord blood is processed.

How can you be so affordable when your standards meet/exceed all of the other cord blood banks?

Michael A. Werner, MD, the founder of Maze Cord Blood Laboratories, made the decision to make cord blood banking as affordable as possible to as many parents as possible. Because of Dr. Werner’s ongoing committment to families, we focus on providing the best quality cord blood and cord tissue banking in the market, at a price more parents can afford.

Does your lower cost effect the quality of your service?

No, it does not. The procedures for collecting, processing and storing your baby’s cord blood are regulated by the institutions that approve and accredit cord blood labs. All AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) accredited and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved cord blood banks are held to the same standards, regardless of how much you spend.

Maze has been FDA-approved for over 15 years, longer than most other cord blood banks, and our AABB-accreditation is up-to-date and validated. Paying more is no guarantee of better service, quality, safety or viability.

Do you offer any discounts?

Maze is proud to offer the following discounts. Learn more here or contact our customer service team for more details.

  • Returning Customers
  • Families having Twins or Multiples
  • Group Discount
  • Military
  • Refer a Friend Program
  • Gift Registry

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE COLLECTION PROCESS