Why Banking Cord Blood for Siblings Matters (Pros and Cons)

Cord Blood For Siblings

Blood from the umbilical cord from one child is the potential life saving treatment for their siblings. The first cord blood stem cell transplant was in 1988 when one sibling received stem cells from the other to treat their Fanconi Anaemia. Since then, there has been much research worldwide to establish the effectiveness of using stems cells from the cord blood for siblings.

Researchers believe that the stem cells can successfully treat more than 80 serious illnesses such as sickle cell anaemia and leukaemia.

The outlook is very optimistic. Siblings are genetically close and banking the cord blood from one sibling will be a 100% match for themselves in the future and up to a 75% match for their sibling.

Cord Blood For Siblings

Should You Bank Cord Blood for Siblings

When can cord blood really make the difference?

Cord blood has many bonuses including the fact that it rarely contains any infectious diseases. Also it is much more likely to be accepted by the recipient’s body than adult stem cells plus –

‘ The fluid is easy to collect and has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow.’

There are a number of medical conditions that can be successfully treated with stem cells, but It is critical that the stem cells used are a close match.

The stem cells are infused into the patient’s bloodstream, where they change into the necessary cells to boost the body’s immune system. This is so that it can effectively fight the disease and repair or replace any badly damaged cells so that the patient recovers.

when can cord blood be used for siblingsFor stem cells in the umbilical cord blood to be compatible it must contain certain proteins (genes). These are called called HLA markers (Human Leukocyte Antigens).

These HLAs are passed on genetically by a baby’s parents, with half the genes being inherited from the mother and the other half, from the father.

A good genetic match is essential if the stem cells are going to be accepted by the recipient body’s immune system.

Using the stem cells donated by a sibling is ideal because genetically the match between siblings is the closest. Whilst a perfect match is the most ideal situation, some stem cell treatments can be successful even if there is not a 100% match.

Are there any problems using cord blood of siblings?

While siblings’ blood offers a much better chance of being a close match, the children must be ‘whole’ brothers and sisters and not ‘half’ as this reduces the chance of a good match.

Whole siblings have a 25% that they will be a complete match and a 50% chance of being a 50% match. Interestingly, they also have a 25% chance that they do not match at all.

When can cord blood be used for siblings?

should I bank cord blood for siblingsStem cells from cord blood can be used for the newborn baby or their siblings. Some serious illnesses can only be treated with the child’s own cord blood. This is known as ‘autologus’. Other illnesses need to be treated with the stem cells from the cord blood of a sibling which is called ‘allogenic’.

The range of conditions that can be treated allogenically include leukaemia and lymphoma and cancers.

There is a third type of transplant which is known as a ‘Haploidentical transplant’. This type of transplant is becoming very common because for it to be successful, there only needs to be a 50% match between donor and recipient. Thus making it possible for the donor to be a parent, child or sibling.

Cord blood is just one of three sources of blood-forming stem cells that surgeons use in transplants. Bone marrow is also used and ‘peripheral’ blood, which is blood that circulates throughout the body.

Cord blood for siblings is favoured because it carries a much lower chance of developing GVHD – graft-versus-host disease. The Miracle Cord website explains that this is a very serious condition that occurs when the healthy cells in the donor tissue attack the immunocompromised cells in the body of the recipient.

If this occurs, there is nearly 50% chance that the patient will die. Miracle Cord also quotes the important statistic that children having a transplant using blood matched from a sibling have less than a 10% chance of developing GVHD.

Is it still best to bank cord blood for each of my children?

problems with cord blood for siblingsIt is important to consider banking cord blood for each of your children, especially if your family has a history of any medical conditions that can be successfully treated with stem blood cells.

The reason for this is that there is the chance that your children – even if they are full brothers and sisters – may not be good matches.

Although banking cord blood for siblings is not cheap, it will definitely give you the peace of mind that you are safeguarding each of your children against more that 80 known serious medical conditions that can be treated by an infusion of cord blood stem cells.

Miracle cord explains how the chances of a good match increase too –

‘The more siblings with banked cord blood, the more chance you have of finding a match for transplants or other therapies for which sibling stem cells are an option or in fact required.

The probability of finding an HLA-identical sibling donor depends on the number of siblings: While the likelihood of a perfect match is 25% for patients with one sibling, it goes up to 44% for those with two siblings, 58% for those with three, 68% for those with four, and up to 90% for patients with eight siblings’.

Final Thoughts – Cord Blood For Siblings

Certainly, the discussion about cord blood and its uses will continue for many years to come. However, one point that researchers are delighted to have found is that cord blood can be very beneficial for siblings with a serious medical condition that can be treated with stem cells…



Know the Process of Stem Cell Collection at Birth

Stem Cell Collection at Birth

Cord blood is the blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby’s birth. Normally, cord blood is disposed of after birth, however it can be collected and stored, so if needed, it can be used in the future. In this article we will explain the stem cell collection at birth process.


What can Stem Cells from Cord Blood be Used for?

Stem cells are the building blocks of blood cells in our bodies. A rich source of them can be found in umbilical cord blood. Many blood disorders and conditions of the immune system can be treated with stem cells. Some of the most commonly treated diseases using stem cells are:

  • Immune deficiency
  • Leukemia
  • Blood diseases (eg aplastic anemia)
  • Metabolic disorders, whereby the process by which the body gets energy from food is disrupted
  • Thalassemia, a blood disease affecting the way the body makes hemoglobin

Medical science is still expanding. As new technologies are developed the range of diseases using umbilical cord blood will be expanded.


Stem Cell Collection at Birth Process

Stem Cell Collection at Birth Process

After the umbilical cord has been cut following either a vaginal or caesarean birth the stem cells can be collected. The process of collection is quick and painless for both baby and mother, and is performed by a trained obstetrician or midwife.

The blood is collected with the insertion of a needle into the umbilical cord vein attached to the placenta. The remaining blood in the umbilical cord and placenta is drained into a collection bag. This process takes about three minutes and can take place either before or after the placenta is delivered.

After collection, the umbilical cord blood is stored frozen, or banked, of future use.


Should I Delay Cord Clamping, then Collect the Cord Blood?

Delayed clamping is where the umbilical cord is not clamped or cut until after the placenta is delivered and after pulsations have ceased.

You are not able to delay clamping when collecting umbilical cord blood as the umbilical cord must be clamped early to capture the maximum number of stem cells.


What If I Wish to Donate My Baby’s Cord Blood?

Stem cell donations are welcomed. Stem cells can be used to help others, with a blood match, to treat life-threatening diseases. Donations also contribute to medical science.

If donated, the cord blood is no longer available for your family to use, it becomes the property of a public bank.

Participation in cord blood donation programs is entirely voluntary. There may be instances when cord blood collection cannot be guaranteed. These include:

  • When your blood isn’t suitable due to having a prior disease such as leukemia, or a genetic disorder.
  • Doctor/nurse priority is to provide optimal care to mother and baby. If circumstances arrive that prioritize this care, blood may not be collected.
  • Trained collection staff may not be available.
  • The hospital may not provide a cord blood collection service.
  • There may not be enough stem cells to warrant collecting.


What Happens After Stem Cell Collection at Birth?

  • Asked to complete a questionnaire about your health and family medical history.
  • Give a blood sample which is tested to determine eligibility.
  • Contacted six months later to check on the health and progress of your baby since the donation.

The information collected is required to ensure the safety of blood and cell products for use in the future.


Privacy of Information

All information you give in relation to stem cell collection at birth and your families medical history is kept private. You will be given a unique reference number that only the staff at the cord blood bank will have the ability to link with your personal details. All information identifying your baby and you is kept confidential and is not passed on to anyone other than you, your doctor and other healthcare professionals involved in your baby’s care.


Stem Cell Collection at Birth Private and Public Banking Options

There are two options available to parents, donating cord blood and private banking.


Donating to a Public Cord Blood Bank

If you select this option, donated cord blood is made available to all patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant. This may be to someone in your country, or from another.

There is no cost to the doner for collection or storage. The stem cells will not be kept specifically for your family’s use. In special circumstances, your baby’s stem cells may be made available for use by your baby or another family member.

Some countries, such as New Zealand, do not take public donations.


Private Umbilical Cord Blood Storage

This is where you bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood for potential use only by your baby or family member if they were ever to become ill. Keep in mind that many diseases cannot be treated with stem cells, especially if the disease is genetic in origin. Consider private cord blood banking as a health insurance policy. You have complete control of the stem cells.

Private cord blood banks charge a fee for collection and storage services. These fees and their services vary greatly from one bank to another. It is advisable to contact the banks and compare. You can use the services of a private cord bank, either from your own country or one from another country.


What are the Risks?

There are no risks to your baby, as the umbilical blood collection does not start until after the cord has been clamped and cut.

The risks to the mother are minor. There may be discomfort with having a blood sample taken. This may cause bruising and rarely, infection at the site.


For Australian residents further information on donating cord blood can be found at AusCord, (the Australian network of umbilical cord blood banks).