Collecting Cord Blood Stem Cells: Method
Stem cells are called progenitor cells i.e. cells whose division and differentiation help in formation of the mature adult cells. A broad classification includes stem cells of embryonic and adult types. Embryonic stem cells, as the name suggests, are present in a growing embryo; whereas adult stem cells are found in the bone marrow. Adult stem cells can also be found in the placenta and the blood found in the umbilical cord at the time of child birth.
As stem cell use has been successful in treating conditions including many cancers that were considered untreatable by other methods, there are scientific attempts to retain the stem cells viable for use in therapy.
Stem cells can be derived from the bone marrow but it has limited use because these stem cells are usually affected by the disorder from which the person is suffering. The alternative of obtaining the placenta and collecting cord blood stem cells can be done only when the child is born so many parents are resorting to preservation of stem cells at blood banks to facilitate future use if necessary.
Once the cord blood bank is identified and all initial procedures and paperwork is complete, the cord blood bank ships the client a cord blood collection kit, which the client brings with them at the time of delivery. Drawing of the mother’s blood prior to the delivery and collection of the cord blood stem cells is done by the team performing the delivery of the child.
The entire process of collecting the cord blood stem cells and placenta is very simple and takes just 5 minutes. This process involves obtaining the cord blood through a vein in the umbilical cord called the umbilical vein.
Cord blood banks have specialized kits prepared for collecting the cord blood stem cells and the placenta. The bag for collecting the cord blood is connected through a needle inserted into the umbilical vein. As the bag is lowered, gravity allows the flow of blood into the bag. A minimum of around 75ml of cord blood is necessary for obtaining good quantity of active stem cells that can be used. If blood flow into the bag arrests before the entire umbilical cord is emptied or before a minimal quantity is obtained, the needle is removed and reinserted into the umbilical vein to obtain the desired quantity.
It is important to take precautions in avoiding contamination of the collected blood. After collecting the cord blood stem cells and the placenta, the medical staff uses specialized containers to transport the cord blood to the cord blood bank where it is again disinfected, processed and after addition of a cryopreservative, cooled slowly to reach a temperature of around -190 degrees, and be stored until such time as it is needed for any therapy, either for the child or for any other family members suffering from a disorder that can be treated with the collected stem cells.