When expectant parents imagine their children’s future, chances are that a rare genetic disorder is not part of that picture. But that was the reality for Andres and Paulina Trevino of Boston. At 2 years old, their son, Andy, was diagnosed with a life-threatening immune disorder. By the age of 5, Andy had been in the hospital for 1,000 days and saw more than 300 doctors to help treat his disease. However, thanks to a treatment Andy received from his sister Sofia’s umbilical cord blood stem cells, he is now thriving and healthier than ever. Inspired by his own son’s medical journey, Andres penned a book entitled, “Andy & Sofia,” documenting his family’s personal story with this live-saving treatment.
Emerging scientific research on cord blood stem cells shows promise in filling treatment gaps for many children, like Andy, who face certain life-threatening conditions. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which can become a treatment by repairing and/or replacing damaged cells in the body.
“Studies are finding new medical benefits of these stem cells every day and providing peace of mind to many families who choose to bank their children’s cord blood stem cells,” says Morey Kraus, chief scientific officer of ViaCord, a private family cord blood bank.
Several private cord blood banks collect and store the stem cells should a child ever need it. The collection is painless for the mother and baby and takes place immediately after birth. An obstetrician or midwife clamps the cord, then through the use of a blood-bag needle, the blood flows into a bag during a two- to four-minute process. After collection, the blood bag is sealed and couriered to a processing facility, where it is stored at a low temperature for preservation.
To date, cord blood stem cells have been used to treat nearly 80 life-threatening diseases, including cancers and leukemia, bone marrow failures, sickle-cell anemia and other genetic and blood disorders. Medical researchers are also exploring its uses for Type-1 diabetes, heart disease, sports injuries and other common, yet incurable conditions. These stem cells are showing more benefits than ever and parents are opting to bank their children’s cord blood for its growing potential.
By storing one’s cord blood stem cells privately, the individual is guaranteed a match should he or she ever needs a cord blood transplant. For expectant parents interested in storing the stem cells, there are options to bank publicly or privately. Private cord blood banks store the stem cells for the families’ own use, while public banks make the stem cells available to any transplant patient who is a donor match.
Family history can also be an important factor to consider when families decide to bank. Certain genetic profiles can make children susceptible to diseases that can be treated with cord blood stem cells. For example, parents carrying the sickle cell trait may have a child who has the disorder and a simple cord blood transfusion can replace the sickled blood cells.
Clinical studies also show that cord blood stem-cell transplants are nearly twice as successful when the stem cells come from a family member rather than from a public donor. For families with a child already facing one of the treatable diseases, ViaCord offers The Sibling Connection Program to provide access to stem cells for treatment. The program collects and stores the child’s stem cells at no charge for families who meet the program’s eligibility requirements and they can be used for a sibling needing a stem-cell transplant or transfusion.
For families who choose to bank, like Andy’s, these options offer peace of mind in knowing that this valuable source of treatment is available should it ever be needed. To learn more about cord blood banking, ViaCord and The Sibling Connection Program, visit www.viacord.com.