Sources of Stem Cells
There are many stem cells in a developing fetus. Many high quality stem cells remain in the umbilical cord blood and tissue after birth.
Collecting them is painless and will not harm the mother or newborn. Immediately after birth, the cord blood is collected in a sterile bag. A segment of the tissue is placed in a sterile cup. Both are sent to the lab for processing and storage. If they are not collected, these cells, along with the placenta and umbilical cord are discarded as medical waste.
Cord Blood Stem Cells
Cord blood is the stem cell-rich blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after the baby is born. These stem cells are hematopoietic, or blood forming, and are the building blocks of our blood and the foundation of our immune system. They can reproduce into red cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies, white cells, which fight off infections, and platelets, which create clots to prevent us from bleeding excessively. Stem cells can also be found in places like bone marrow and fat tissue, but the most easily accessible and versatile cells come from the umbilical cord.
Cord Tissue Stem CellsCord tissue refers to the actual umbilical cord that connects mom and baby during pregnancy. Your baby’s umbilical cord tissue, called Wharton’s Jelly is an abundant source of valuable stem cells that are different from the stem cells found in cord blood. The predominant cord blood stem cells are hematopoietic, meaning they evolve into blood cells. The cord tissue stem cells are called mesenchymal or MSCs, and have shown the ability in studies to evolve into tissue cells.
Bone Marrow Stem Cells
In adults, stem cells are found most readily in bone marrow. Less potent sources are adipose tissue (fat cells) and the blood system. Harvesting adult cells for therapeutic purposes requires an invasive procedure, either a bone marrow aspiration, liposuction, or apheresis. Finding matching donors can be problematic or impossible. Seventy-five percent of those needing a stem cell infusion cannot find one from these adult sources.