What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that is left behind in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born.
Cord blood is rich in blood stem cells, which are the building blocks of all blood cells in our body. Similar stem cells are also produced in the bone marrow. Among other functions, stem cells produce blood cells that carry oxygen, fight infection and stop bleeding. Cord blood stem cells can be collected after the baby is born and can be frozen and stored indefinitely.
Why is cord blood needed?
Cord blood is very rich in stem cells and these are the building blocks of all blood cells in our bodies. They carry oxygen, fight infection and stop bleeding.
The most common diseases currently treated using cord blood are related to blood disorders and some cancers such as:
- Immune deficiency
- Blood diseases such as Aplastic and Fanconi Anaemia
- Metabolic storage diseases
In the future the range of diseases treated using cord blood might be expanded due to new technological and scientific advances.
How is the cord blood collected?
Healthy mothers 18-45 years old may be eligible to donate the cord blood in one of the AusCord participant hospitals.
Healthy indigenous mothers delivering only at the Royal Darwin Hospital may be eligible to donate if they are 16 years or older.
The mother will be asked to read the About AusCord and Public Cord Blood Banking document before providing informed consent, complete a questionnaire and give a blood sample which is tested for infectious diseases to determine eligibility. The mother’s blood is also HLA typed.
After the baby’s birth, the blood remaining in the cord and placenta is collected into a blood collection bag.
Once collected, the cord blood is stored frozen for future use.
After a period of six months, the mother is contacted to check on the health of the baby since donation. Once this is completed, the cord blood is made available for patients in need of a transplant.
AusCord has strict quality standards to protect patient safety. Only cord blood units that meet these standards will be stored and listed on international registries for patients in need of a transplant.
What are the risks?
There are no risks to either the mother or the baby. The cord blood is collected after the cord has been clamped and cut.
Privacy and confidentiality
The Cord Blood Banks handle donor information in accordance with the relevant privacy laws.
No identifying information is exchanged between a cord blood donor and patient.
Information, blood and/or DNA will be stored and may be used in ethically approved research or quality assurance projects if the mother has given consent. AusCord cord blood banks do not participate in any cloning research projects.