What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in a baby’s umbilical cord and placenta immediately after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut.
Your baby’s cord blood contains a diverse mixture of important cells, including stem cells. Cord blood is a particularly rich source of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which have the ability to create and heal our organs, blood, tissue and the immune system. Because of their “youth”, stem cells from umbilical cord blood are among the most flexible and potent in the body.
Are cord blood stem cells different from other stem cells?
Yes, cord blood stem cells differ from other types of adult stem cells. Cord blood has the following advantages:
Simple and non-invasive:
- Collection and storage is simple and painless for both mother and baby
- Once cord blood has been stored it is available immediately for treatment
- There is no need to locate a compatable donor
- No invasive procedure to harvest bone marrow if required
Cord blood medical advantages:
- Cord blood stem cells are more potent than adult stem cells
- Cord blood stem cells haven’t had exposure to environmental pollutants, viruses and chemicals that happen over time
Cord blood flexibility:
- Greater flexibility in genetic matching - only a partial match between the donor and patient may be required
- Reduced risk of graft vs host disease and lower incidence of viral transmissions
A perfect match:
- Your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells are a perfect match for your child, and are more likely to be a match for siblings and family members
- The closer the match, the greater the likelihood of the body accepting the cells
Why store your baby's cord blood?
Cord blood and cord tissue are rich in powerful stem cells and can only be collected at birth for potential future use.
Stem cells can be used now for medical treatments, and there is an expanding range of new therapies being researched that anticipate using cord blood and tissue in the future, eg. type 1 diabetes, cerebral palsy and autism.
Your baby's stem cells are a perfect match for your child and are likely to be a match for siblings and family members. Siblings have a much higher probability of a match than an unrelated donor and the medial outcomes are superior when related cord blood is used in transplants.
Who can use your baby’s cord blood?
The ownership of the cord blood and tissue remains with you and your child and can only be released for use by your child or compatible family members.
Your baby's umbilical cord stem cells are a perfect match for your child, and are more likely to be a match for siblings and family members. This is known as family banking.
Should I store cord blood and tissue for each child?
Yes, by saving cord blood and tissue for each child, you are ensuring that he or she will have access to their own cells if they ever needed to in the future. This is particularly important for potential regenerative medicine applications. It also increases the chance of a good match for other family members.
Why store cord tissue as well as cord blood?
Cord blood and cord tissue contain different types of cells, which have the potential for different types of treatment. In simple terms, cord blood is a rich source of blood stem cells (haemopoietic stem cells or HSCs) and other types of immune cells. Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which form into bone, cartilage, muscle and tendon. MSCs also have the potential to form into nerve cells, and have qualities that dampen the immune system and reduce inflammation. HSCs and MSCs have different roles in the body, and hence lead to the potential for different treatments.
How is cord blood and tissue collected?
Collection of cord blood and tissue is performed by a trained Cell Care collector, obstetrician or midwife.
Cord blood collection takes place immediately after the birth of the baby once the cord has been clamped and cut. The cord blood is collected into a sterile collection bag. The procedure is painless for both mother and baby, and takes around three minutes. The cord tissue is collected after the delivery of the placenta. Find out how it works here.
When should the cord be clamped?
Clamping and cutting the umbilical cord after birth is an essential requirement of cord blood collection for stem cell storage. The timing of the cord being clamped is an important consideration for cord blood collection.
Generally when a baby’s cord is clamped within one minute of birth this is called early cord clamping. This method ensures the cord blood remains in the umbilical cord and placenta for collection. Research has shownone of the key factors to successful cord blood transplants is the volume of cord blood infused - the greater the cord blood volume, the better the clinical outcome of the treatment.
Delayed cord clamping is when the umbilical cord is left unclamped for more than one minute or up until the cord stops pulsating. If the umbilical cord is left unclamped, the blood in the placenta will travel back to the baby’s body increasing the baby’s blood volume. The time it takes for this is different for every baby. For many babies this is approximately 3 minutes however some can take up to 10 minutes30. Delayed cord clamping significantly reduces (or drains completely) the cord blood remaining in the umbilical cord after birth. This obviously impacts the ability to collect an adequate volume of cord blood for potential future treatments.
The medical discussion regarding the relative benefits of delayed cord clamping and cord blood collection is complex and controversial. Many considerations are often debated including bleeding after birth (postpartum haemorrhage), birth weight, early and late haemoglobin concentrations, increased iron reserves and jaundice. The Australian medical community does not have a definitive position on delayed cord clamping, though standard practice in most hospitals is early clamping.
The relative benefits with regards to stem cells are also controversial and poorly understood. Delayed clamping returns some stem cells to the baby, but studies have shown that these stem cells disappear from the circulation in a matter of hours. On the other hand, a number of preclinical studies have shown that collecting these and then giving them back later can have significant benefits, particularly when the birth is traumatic, and clinical studies are already underway to examine this more fully.
Cell Care, in collaboration with health care professionals at birth, tries to accommodate the best wishes of the parents. While we note that a delay in cord clamping can impact the volume of your baby’s cord blood collection, a compromise is often reached in the instances where a mother elects to have a delay in clamping of the umbilical cord and collect cord blood.
Cell Care believes the decision around umbilical cord clamping is up to the individuals to make in consultation with their health care professional, but we recommend to parents that they explore their options in the context of their likely birth situation prior to deciding.
How much blood needs to be collected?
We encourage your collector to collect as much cord blood as possible. Evidence indicates that the greater the number of stem cells transplanted, the more likely the cells are to survive the transplant. The number of stem cells available depends on the amount of cord blood collected.
What happens if a low volume of cord blood is collected?
Cell Care analyses the number of stem cells in each sample. Occasionally there will be fewer stem cells than expected. In this case, if the cell count exceeds our minimum benchmark you will be given the option to decide whether you wish to continue storage of the sample.
Does it matter which type of birth I have?
The method of delivery does not affect the process of cord blood and tissue collection. Once your baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord clamped and cut, the collection can take place.
If you are having a caesarean delivery, our collection pack is completely sterile and suitable for use in theatre.
What happens if my baby is born prematurely?
Prematurity is not an issue unless your baby is born at less than 34 weeks gestation. Deliveries earlier than this generally result in a smaller baby and therefore a smaller placenta, and this normally does not allow for a sufficient yield of cord blood. Cell Care may collect prior to 34 weeks gestation, following the written approval of your healthcare provider.
What about contamination?
Bacterial contamination of stem cell products (either cord blood, bone marrow or peripheral blood) is not a contraindication to storage and samples can be used for transplantation together with antibiotics. Our standard procedure is to continue storage and should the sample be needed for use, the treating physician will be informed of the contamination, and the antibiotic sensitivities of the organism. This practice is consistent with the FACT/Netcord Standard against which we are accredited.
Does the hospital need anything to do the collection?
No. Once you register with Cell Care you will receive a collection pack containing everything that your obstetrician, midwife or trained collector will need to collect your baby’s cord blood and tissue. You just need to remember to take the pack to the hospital with you when you go in to have your baby.
Can you collect from rural parts of the country?
Cell Care routinely collects from all states in Australia and transports from most regional birthing hospitals can be achieved in less than 24 hours.
Further, the Cell Care transport container and its temperature stabilising elements have been specifically designed to maintain optimal conditions during transport.
How will I know that my baby's cord blood and tissue stem cells have been received?
You will receive a text message confirming the arrival of your baby’s cord blood and tissue at our facility.
Once we have received your baby’s cord blood and tissue at our laboratory, it is processed immediately. Our Cell Care scientists process cord blood and tissue 365 days a year.
You will receive a follow up call to confirm the storage status of your cord blood and tissue.
How do I know that my baby’s cord blood and tissue will not be mixed up with someone else’s?
Cell Care ensures that your sample cannot be mixed up at any point using a triple-identification system:
- Your baby’s collection kit is assigned a unique barcode that is used at every step of the collection
- These barcode labels have been validated for use on the collection bag, freezing bags, paperwork and all critical applications during processing and storage
- All of the components used during processing and storage are uniquely identified and allocated for your individual use
- The mother’s name is permanently attached to each step of the process
- The cassette barcode label and storage location for your baby’s cord blood and tissue is stored in our validated computer system, which is backed up daily.
What tests are carried out on the cord blood?
In the laboratory your baby’s cord blood is tested for bacterial contamination, total cell numbers and cellular viability. It is quite difficult to identify stem cells just by looking at them; the only proof that a cell is a stem cell is determined by how it behaves when it multiplies. Scientists have therefore developed a number of tests to determine the amount of stem cells present in a sample. The best known marker for blood-forming cells is that they test positive for CD34+, a protein found on the surface of stem cells. Cell Care uses its own state-of-the-art instrument (called a flow cytometer) for conducting these tests.
We also store vials of frozen cord blood plasma and buffy coat cells, which can later be retrieved for additional testing, for example prior to release of the sample for use.
What tests are carried out on the maternal blood?
A maternal blood sample is collected at the time of your baby’s birth, usually before the actual delivery. This is tested for a number of infectious agents, including HIV, hepatitis B and C, HTLV and syphilis. We understand that tests for these have often been carried out during your pregnancy but it is important for us to repeat them at the time of delivery, as the results can tell us whether the cord blood is infected with any of the above pathogens.
Where is my baby’s cord blood and tissue stored?
Cell Care has its own state-of-the-art processing and storage facility in Victoria. The facility has continuous CCTV security monitoring, controlled swipe card access and back-to-base intrusion alarms monitored by an external security company 365 days a year. Critical areas have been temperature-mapped and are continuously monitored. A 12,000L bulk liquid nitrogen tank maintains supplies to each cryogenic storage vessel via vacuum insulated piping, ensuring that the cells have a continuous source of liquid nitrogen.
How are the cord blood and tissue stem cells stored?
Once the cells have been through the processing phase, they are transferred to a cryogenic storage tank for long-term storage in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen.
How long can the stem cells be stored for?
Once the cells are frozen and stored at cryogenic temperatures, scientists have determined that all cell activity stops. With no molecular movement there is no potential for further damage, which means the cells can be stored for extended periods of time without compromising their integrity.
Currently there is no use-by date for cord blood stem cells. Published research suggests that after 23 years of cryopreservation, cord blood stem cells show no degeneration. Comparatively, bone marrow and other human tissues and cells have been stored for decades and have remained viable. There is no reason to believe that the same would not be true for cord blood and tissue stem cells.
If my baby needs a transplant, could I use the public bank?
With a public bank, your baby’s cord blood is a donation, and is available for use in approved therapies by anyone worldwide who is a genetic match and therefore cord blood stored may not be available for your child or family’s use if the need arises.
How do I access my baby’s stem cells if ever needed?
If you do need to retrieve your cord blood and tissue cells for a medical treatment or a clinical trial, please contact Cell Care. We will assist you in meeting the necessary TGA approval requirements.
Cell Care does not charge to release samples.
Has Cell Care released any cells for use?
Cell Care has released cord blood samples for therapeutic use in both a clinical and approved research setting. The cord blood units we have released to date have been viable for use – this is the ultimate validation of our quality processing and storage methods.
What is the likelihood of ever using banked cord blood?
The probability of using stored cord blood is difficult to predict. Many factors impact the likelihood of use including the prevalence of disease, treatment options available, age and therapies that may be approved in the future.
It is important to note that estimates of use may vary considerably for these reasons. Today, based on currently approved therapies and ignoring the trials and research being undertaken, the chance of a child requiring stem cell therapy is 1 in 3,0002.
Over a person’s life time the probability of requiring stem cell therapy is estimated at 1 in 2002.
How do I enrol with Cell Care?
Only Cell Care offers complete online enrolment. It’s a simple 4-step process that takes approximately 10 minutes to complete:
1. Choose to bank cord blood, or cord blood and tissue
2. Select your payment plan
3. Pay a deposit ($150 or $250 depending on the storage plan selected)
4. Complete medical questionnaire
If I answer "yes" on my medical questionnaire does this mean my baby's cord blood and tissue cannot be collected and stored?
A ‘Yes’ response to any question on the medical questionnaire does not necessarily mean your baby’s cord blood and tissue are not able to be stored. The medical questionnaire is designed for a number of reasons:
- To alert us to potential medical conditions, which may affect the condition or viability of your cord blood and tissue sample
- To provide important medical information for a doctor to consider, prior to using your baby’s cord blood and tissue for transplantation
If you have answered yes to any of the critical questions the laboratory may request that you forward a copy of your routine serology test results taken by your obstetrician or care provider during your pregnancy. This is to minimise the risk to both couriers and laboratory staff handling contaminated blood.
At this time, blood that is positive for HIV or hepatitis C cannot be banked. If you answered yes to any other questions we will discuss them with you when you enrol with us.
When should I enrol?
To be absolutely certain to receive your collection kit before going to hospital, we suggest enroling as early as possible. Cell Care will do everything possible to facilitate last minute registrations.
I am having my baby in a public hospital. Can I still store the cord blood and tissue privately?
Yes, Cell Care has an extensive network of trained collectors who can facilitate collections from public and private hospitals around Australia. Our collectors can provide this service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (public holidays included).
How much does it cost?
Cell Care offer clear and flexible pricing options, use our pricing table to see and compare our different pricing plans.
Are there discounts for previous clients or multiple births?
Yes, Cell Care has special pricing options for multiple births and siblings. Use our pricing calculator to work out how much discount you will receive.