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Cord Blood - The Basics

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Cord blood has drawn a lot of public curiosity in the last three years. Most of this has rallied around the findings in the medical community of the potential benefits they think cord blood could offer in the treatment or management of medical conditions that have perplexed doctors and researchers for decades. So what exactly is cord blood and how is it thought to help?

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the cord that connects the fetus/baby to the placenta. This cord carries oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood from the placenta to the fetus/baby, thus helping it’s growth. When the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut few minutes after delivery, nutrient-rich blood remains in the arteries of the cut portion of the umbilical cord. This is known as umbilical cord blood or simply cord blood.

What does cord blood contain? It has been found that cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells, apart from the usual red blood cells, white blood cells, blood platelets and plasma. Hematopoietic stem cells are blood-forming stem cells and are similar to (though not the same as) those found in bone marrow. (Source: National Cord Blood Program, New York Blood Center; Article Title: Cord Blood Q & A; URL: http://www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org/qa/)

Scientists and physicians have researched and come to conclude that cord blood may help in the management of certain types of blood cancers and a few genetic disorders of the blood. (Source: Hal E. Broxmeyer PhD and Franklin O. Smith MD (2009). "Cord Blood Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation." Thomas' Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, Fourth Edition (Fourth Edition).

On the basis of results obtained from studies, it is also a widely held opinion that cord blood may prove beneficial in the management of:

• brain injuries (Source: Cord Blood for Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, Autologous Cord Blood Cells for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Study 1. Phase I Study of Feasibility and Safety),
• type 1 diabetes (Source: Haller MJ, etal.; Viener, HL; Wasserfall, C; Brusko, T; Atkinson, MA; Schatz, DA (2008). "Autologous umbilical cord blood infusion for type 1 diabetes.". Exp. Hematol.

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