Protecting your baby’s life before they’re born? It almost sounds too good to be true.
But that’s the promise of the umbilical cord. Up until now, you probably thought it was just a waste product – something that does its job in the womb and that you then throw in the bin after the birth. As it turns out, that’s not the case.
No, the umbilical cord is actually rich in powerful ‘stem cells’. You may have heard of them. They’re tiny cells in the human body which are sometimes called the ‘building blocks of life’.
We all start off as just a single stem cell, which then multiplies into millions and billions more. Even after we’re born, they stick around to help us fight illnesses, heal broken body parts, and just generally to grow and develop.
Scientists have been using them since the 1980s as a sort of magic to kickstart healing too. They’re transplanted into patients around the world to treat all sorts of things – cancers, anaemias and more.
But now, umbilical cord stem cells are particularly pushing the boundaries of science: doctors are using them to treat the symptoms of autism and cerebral palsy, to reverse lasting damage from strokes, and even to try and cure diabetes.
It makes you wonder why we’ve been throwing away the cord for all these years.
It seems parents are catching on to their baby’s stem cell potential though. Cord blood banks now offer families the chance to store the umbilical cord, so that it’s ready and waiting if their child ever requires a stem cell therapy.
Of course, it’s early days still for most umbilical cord stem cell therapies but the signs suggest things are heading in the right direction.
For instance, the BBC just reported that 27,028 cord blood and tissue units were stored in 2018. That’s way up from 16,965 units stored in 2014.
There were also 6,500 studies using stem cells in 2018. Now, that’s 7,400.
It’s crazy how quickly things are moving and sure, we hope and pray that our children are never diagnosed with a disease or disorder that requires stem cells. But if they were? It would be nice to know that you stored umbilical cord stem cells in your back pocket for a rainy day.
If you want to know more about stem cell storage in the UK, visit: https://cells4life.com/stem-cell-collection-whats-involved/
Disclosure: This commissioned article was produced in partnership with Cells4Life.