What are cord blood stem cells? How are they used in medicine?

In recent years you might have heard about the use of stem cells in medicine. Despite the news coverage, it can be a bit difficult to understand how stem cell therapy works and when it can be used. We're here to help.

What are stem cells?

Unlike any other cell in the body, stem cells have a unique ability to develop into different cell types. They are able to repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, making them a valuable resource for medical treatments and research.

How do I access stem cells?

Stem cells used in today’s medical treatments come from one of three sources: umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood.

How does stem cell therapy work?

To over simplify, when healthy stem cells are transplanted into a patient’s body, they hone into the damaged or diseases cells and replace them – often improving the patient’s health and, in many cases, saving the patient’s life.

What diseases can be treated with stem cell therapy?

Today a number of life-threatening diseases, including certain cancers, blood disorders, metabolic disorders, immunodeficiencies and bone marrow failure syndromes use stem cell therapy as part of the treatment protocol. And researchers are exploring the possibility of cord blood stem cells therapies for conditions like cerebral palsy, type 1 diabetes, and autism which have no treatment options today.

What does this mean for me?

As an expecting parent you have the opportunity to save your newborn’s umbilical cord blood stem cells; securing your family a medical resource that would otherwise be discarded.

Having access to stem cells may provide a treating physician with more options, but it doesn’t guarantee results. Only a doctor can decide when stem cells can be used. Sometimes having options can make all the difference.

  • "Stem Cell Basics." NIH. National Institutes of Health, HHS, n.d. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics.htm. 
  • Mark L Weiss, Deryl L Troyer. "Stem Cells in the Umbilical Cord." Stem Cell Rev. 2(2): 155–162. Web. 2006. 
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