GlossMagazineOnline (GMO): Can you explain the process of cord blood banking?
Dr. Soufi: Shortly after the baby is born, the obstetrician or midwife clamps and cuts the umbilical cord. The needle of the collection bag is inserted into the large vein of the umbilical cord and the blood will flow into the collection bag by gravity until it stops. Note all of this is 100 percent painless to both the baby and the mother. Once the cord blood is collected, it’s returned to the collection kit. The father or another family member calls the courier for pickup from the bedside. The cord blood will be transported to the laboratory where it will be processed and placed for long term storage.
GMO: Why is this procedure so important to minorities, specifically African Americans?
Dr. Soufi: The reason why storing the cord blood privately is especially important to African Americans and other minorities is because if they needed to find a stem cell unit either through the National Bone Marrow Registry or through the National Public Cord Blood Registry, it would be more difficult to find a match. By storing the child’s cord blood, there is up to a 75 percent chance of finding an acceptable match for his or her sibling. And of course, any child would have a 100 percent chance of being a match for his or her own stem cells.
GMO: What are the benefits to cord blood banking?
Dr. Soufi: Today, cord blood stem cells have been used to treat nearly 80 diseases, including leukemia and anemias. To date, more than 30,000 cord blood transplants have been performed to treat life-threatening diseases. This list continues to grow as research uncovers new uses for cord blood. Most of these diseases are genetic in nature, which means they can’t be treated with their own stem cells. In most cases, a matched cord blood collection from a sibling is the best option for treatment. Furthermore, studies have shown there is more than double the chance of survival when the patients were treated with related cord blood in comparison with donated cord blood. In addition, there are two ongoing clinical trials studying the effects of children’s own cord blood for the treatment of cerebral palsy and Type 1 Diabetes.
GMO: What are the side effects of this medical procedure for mothers and children?
Dr. Soufi: The collection of cord blood occurs after the delivery of the baby is 100 percent painless and has no side effects for the baby or the mother.
GMO: What do you think is the biggest stumbling block that prevents people from cord blood banking?
Dr. Soufi: A lack of awareness is the biggest stumbling block. Obstetricians can and should educate their patients about it. More minorities, especially African Americans, should donate and store cord blood. Siblings with sickle cell anemia can help other siblings and cord blood banking can be linked to fighting cerebral palsy, autism, leukemia and other cancers.