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Stem Cell Storage (Cord Blood) - Information and Contacts
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are completely naive cells. They can, when stimulated change into many different kinds of cell found in the body. Serving as a kind of repair system, they can pretty much divide without limit to replace other cells. When a stem cell divides, each new cell can either stay as a stem cell, or become another kind of cell with a more specific function such as a muscle cell, red blood cell, even a brain cell.

Umbilical cord blood is a very rich source of stem cells.

Currently, stem cells are primarily used in transplant medicine to regenerate a patient's blood and immune system after they have been treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation to destroy cancer cells.

At the same time chemotherapy and radiation destroys the cancer cells in a patient, they also destroy stem cells. Therefore, an infusion of stem cells or a stem cell transplant is performed after the chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. The stem cells then migrate to the patient's bone marrow where they multiply and regenerate all of the cells to create a new blood and immune system for the patient.

The ability of cord blood stem cells to differentiate, or change into other types of cells in the body is a discovery that holds significant promise for improving the treatment of some of the most common diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's.

Where do stem cells come from?
Stem cells are primarily found in bone marrow, peripheral blood, and umbilical cord blood. A further source of stem cells embryonic stem cells has been the cause of much debate. Embryonic stem cells are currently not used to treat humans.

Bone marrow stem cell collection is painful and complicated and requires a surgical procedure for the donor. Peripheral blood is easier to obtain but is a time consuming and complicated procedure compared to the collection of umbilical cord blood.

How are cord blood stem cells collected?
When your baby is born and after the umbilical cord has been cut, the remaining blood can be collected from the umbilical cord for storage. The process is safe, easy and painless for both mother and baby, and does not interfere with the aftercare of the mother or baby. The blood is then taken by courier to a laboratory where the stem cells are separated from the red blood cells and cryogenically preserved ready for use should they be needed.

How are stem cells stored?
The cells are stored by slowly cooling them to the temperature of liquid nitrogen which is -196 degrees Celsius. Chemicals are added to prevent damage to the cells during the freezing process. Once frozen the cells are completely stable and can be kept in this state for many years. The technology used is very well established in the field of IVF and other forms of assisted fertility.

What are stem cells used for?
The first successful umbilical cord blood transplant took place in 1989. Since then, over 15,000 transplants have taken place all over the world. It is now considered a proven treatment for a variety of blood disorders. Stem cells are often used after a course of chemotherapy to help regenerate a persons immune system. Ongoing research has shown potential use in treating over 70 different medical conditions.

Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) are proteins that appear on the surface of white blood cells and tissues within the human body. Studies have shown that cord blood transplants are successful, even when only three of the minimum of six proteins match.

What is the advantage of storing stem cells for Twins or multiple births?
Identical twins will have a matching HLA type. Therefore blood collected from their cords can be used to treat either of the twins.By storing two identically matched cord blood samples, there is the option to combine the samples to give a greater volume of cells for transplant.Similarly, if more than one treatment is necessary, you know you will have a matching sample available.

Non identical twins have a 1 in 4 chance of being a perfect match for their twin and a comparatively good chance of being a match for other family members. Therefore should a family member have the option of using umbilical cord blood stem cells for their illness, there are two samples which can be tested for use. Cord blood cells are less mature than those in bone marrow, and therefore siblings are twice as likely to be able to use each other's cord blood, compared to bone marrow.

Is private storage expensive?
However you choose to store your babies stem cells, the procedure will be similar. You will obtain two cord blood collection kits for a fee from your chosen storage provider. Once the stem cells have been separated from the cord blood and cryogenically frozen, there will be a processing and storage fee. Smart Cells International has an attractive TwinsUK offer which can be found on the members page of this website.

Is this the right thing for you?
As your children get older, your ability to protect them lessens. Although you may not be able to protect them for the rest of their lives you can give them the best possible start. By storing their cord blood stem cells, you could be giving your child a gift that can last a lifetime.

Testimonials from parents of twins
"We collected the cord blood for our first child a few years ago. When we realised we were expecting twins I was a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to collect the cord blood for 2 at the same time. I was also worried that the new legislation that came in over the course of summer 2008 might complicate things at the hospital. However Smart Cells sorted out the paper work with our consultant and collecting the cord blood for twins seemed no harder than collecting for a singleton. Smart Cells have also improved the packaging and dispatching process (that the nervous new Dads have to do in the hospital) so that was even easier than last time - though I did have to concentrate not to get the bags mixed up - this might be a bit more of a challenge with triplets!

Everyone who collects cord blood hopes they'll never have to use it but we know we've done the right thing by bagging and banking it just in case we do."Simon Leadbetter, Father to 3 Smart Cells Babies

I work as a management consultant to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. When I found out that I was pregnant with the twins I had just completed a project with a small Biotechnology company marketing a number of products for the treatment of childhood leukaemia. I had also worked with a client the year before marketing immunosuppressant regimens to prevent rejection in solid organ and haematological transplants. Both of these projects heightened my awareness of the potential catastrophic impact of these diseases and of the difficulty in achieving successful treatment. Stem Cell collection seemed like a logical choice. Whilst I know that the incidence of disease such as childhood leukaemia is extremely low, I saw Stem Cell collection as an insurance policy that I couldnt afford not to have. I didnt know about cord blood collection when I had my daughter in 2006, but when I did find out about it I felt that I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to the twins and I had not done everything that I could. Sandra Laird, Mother to Smart Cells Twins
Where can I read more information?
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: http://www.rcog.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1673


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