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Umbilical Cord Blood Donation


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Pregnant women sometimes have questions or concerns regarding umbilical cord blood donation. Two common questions are: Can their infant’s cord blood be used to benefit MS research? Another question: Is it worthwhile to “bank” their infant’s umbilical cord blood for the benefit of a family member who might need the umbilical stem cells for future treatment of their MS? 

The following points have been identified through investigation of this topic.

Can cord blood be used for MS research?

Research is being conducted using cord blood cells to analyze immune response and other factors that may eventually shed light on causes and treatment of MS. However, at present there is no treatment available involving cord blood cells. Nor do we know of any sites that are looking for cord blood specifically for MS research.

Umbilical cord blood is being studied for potential use in a wide variety of life-threatening diseases because it is a rich source of blood stem cells. Transplantation of blood stem cells from umbilical cords has been used successfully to treat several pediatric blood diseases, including sickle cell anemia and cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. There is currently no solid evidence that umbilical cord blood stem cells can be transformed into other types of cells that would benefit MS, such as replacement nerve tissue or myelin-making cells.

Storing cord blood for future treatment

The second question concerns “storing” the newborn’s cord blood for the child’s future use or a family member’s future use. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement saying that, "Public cord blood banking is the preferred method of collecting, processing, and using cord blood cells for use in transplantation in infants and children with fatal diseases, such as malignancies, blood disorders, immune deficiencies, and metabolic disorders." They state: "There is a more limited role of private cord blood banking with families with a known fatal illness that can be rescued by a healthy cord blood transplant within the family."

Particularly for individuals with MS — for whom there is no available research on the benefits of umbilical stem cell transplantation — private umbilical cord banking is discouraged.

Donating cord blood

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages umbilical cord donations for general research purposes. Donors are encouraged to talk with their doctor or midwife regarding their decision to donate umbilical cord blood and contact a cord blood bank by the 35th week of pregnancy. 

The procedure for obtaining the cord blood involves clamping the umbilical cord at the time of birth. The small amount of blood remaining in the umbilical cord is drained and taken to a cord blood bank. It is free to donate.

Read more about cord blood donation and options for umbilical cord banking and donation on the web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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