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About Stem Cells

  1. What are stem cells?
  2. What is cord blood?
  3. How are stem cells used?
  4. What type of diseases are treated with stem cell transplantation?
  5. Are cord blood stem cells different than other types of stem cells?
  6. Who can benefit from cord blood stem cell banking?
  7. Why are doctors choosing to use cord blood stem cells instead of bone marrow?
  8. What is Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD)?
  9. What is HLA matching?
  10. Why do families choose to collect and store their baby’s cord blood stem cells?

What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the body’s “master” cells because they create all other tissues, organs and systems in the body.

The hematopoietic stem cells found in cord blood are the building blocks of your blood and immune system and most readily reproduce into:

Red Blood Cells - which carry oxygen to all the cells in the body.
White Blood Cells – which fight infection.
Platelets – which aid in clotting in the event of injury.

The ability of cord blood stem cells to differentiate, or change into other types of cells in the body is a new discovery that holds significant promise for improving the treatment of some of the most common diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and liver disease .

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What is cord blood?
Cord blood, which is also called “placental blood”, is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth and after the cord is cut. Cord blood is routinely discarded with the placental and umbilical cord.

Your baby’s umbilical cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells, which are genetically unique to your baby and family.

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How are stem cells used?
Currently, stem cells are primarily used in transplant medicine to regenerate a patient’s blood and immune system after they have been treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation to destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy and radiation destroys the cancer cells in a patient but also destroys the patient’s rapidly dividing cells including stem cells. An infusion of stem cells known as a stem cell transplant is performed after the chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment to replenish and replace the destroyed stem cells. The stem cells migrate to the patient’s bone marrow where they multiply and regenerate all of the cells to create a new blood and immune system for the patient.

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What type of diseases are treated with stem cell transplantation?
The chart entitled “Current Stem Cell Application” shows all of the types of diseases that have been treated with stem cell transplantation. Not all diseases amenable to stem cell transplantation have been treated specifically with cord blood stem cells due to its availability but its uses have been increasing with more and more people banking this resource. Doctors have been using cord blood in life-saving treatments since 1988.

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Are cord blood stem cells different than other types of stem cells?
Yes. Umbilical cord blood stem cells are the “youngest”, safely available stem cells and they are the product of another miracle – the birth of your baby. Freezing these cells essentially stops the clock and may be used to repair and regenerate damaged tissue later in life.

Another source of stem cells, embryonic stem cells is controversial and has been at the heart of a heated debate. Currently, embryonic stem cells have not been used in treatment.

A third category of stem cells is adult stem cells, such as those found in bone marrow. Adult stem cells sever very specialized roles in children and adults and are thought not to be as proliferative as those found in cord blood.

Cord Blood Stem Cells
Bone Marrow Stem Cells
Embryonic Stem Cells
Clinical Used

Available in Malaysia
Easily Extracted
< RM 10,000**
Not in clinical use
Accepted and Established Source
Easy to find HLA Match
Does StemLife Accept for Banking?
Transplantation carried out by StemLife?
* International Pricing
* Price for storage of stem cells over 20 years.

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Who can benefit from cord blood stem cell banking?
To date, umbilical cord stem cells have been used in more than 10,000 transplants for children and adults. In many cases, the cord blood was used by the baby’s sibling. Other transplants have occurred for the newborn himself, the newborn’s mother, father, and the newborn’s cousin.

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Why are doctors choosing to use cord blood stem cells instead of bone marrow?
Easier to match – higher survival
Bone marrow is difficult to match between the donor and recipient. In order for a transplant to take place, the “perfect match” is usually required and finding an identical set of stem cells can be difficult. Cord blood immune cells, however, are less mature than in bone marrow and have been successfully used even when there is only half-match. This means there is more opportunity for transplants between family members using cord blood stem cells. Some studies have shown that the overall survival rates for related transplants are more than double that of transplants from unrelated donors.

Immediate availability
Banking your baby’s cord blood stem cells ensures that these stem cells can be immediately available if they are needed for treatment. Early treatment of many illnesses can minimize disease progression. According to researchers at Duke University, cord blood stem cells transplants could provide possible survival that is unlikely with the more time consuming process of searching for unrelated marrow donation.

Overall, patients who receive cord transplant s from a relative experience significantly less Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), a transplant rejection that is the leading cause of death in stem cell transplant patients. According to one study the three year cumulative incidence of chronic GVHD was 6% for match siblings who received cord blood transplant versus 15% for match siblings who received bone marrow transplant.

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What is Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD)?
is one of the most common and life threatening side effect of stem cell/ bone marrow transplant. GVHD occurs when the transplanted stem cells recognize the recipient’s body as foreign and “reject” it. Cord blood stem cells transplants have had a noticeable lack of GVHD because the stem cells from the donor do not need to match the recipient as closely as with bone marrow.

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What is HLA matching?
Matching refers to six proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) that appear on surface of white blood cells and other tissues in the body. These six HLA points or loci determine tissue compatibility between a patient and a donor. Although a perfect match would be best, studies have shown that cord blood stem cells transplants are successful, even when only three of the six loci match. With cord blood, the immune cells are less mature than those in bone marrow and therefore, siblings are twice as likely to be able to use each other’s cord blood, compared to bone marrow.

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Why do families choose to collect and store their baby’s cord blood stem cells?
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity – Only At Birth
At an increasing rate, expectant parents age storing cord blood stem cells for their families, not only as a potential life-saving resource for current uses of stem cells, but also for their future potential. Some families have more defined risk factors, but most often, parents bank for the security of knowing the health benefits stem cells may someday offer their children, themselves or other family members.

Recent clinical studies support the unique suitability of cord blood stem cells for a number of developing technologies. Doctors are especially enthusiastic about the potential use of cord blood stem cells in the emerging fields of gene therapy and cellular repair. When you bank your baby’s cord blood stem cells, you may be saving what ay be a key component to potential future medical treatments and cures.

Family History
Cord blood banking is prudent choice if you or your spouse/partner has any family history of a disease that is treatable with stem cells, such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. It is important to remember, however, that for many cancers or diseases, the causes are unknown and they occur even when there is no family history of the disease.

Ethnic or Mixed Ethnicity
Ethnic minorities and families of missed ethnicity have greater difficulty finding stem cell donors when needed. Many genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia are more common in certain ethnic populations. Both of these diseases have been successfully treated with stem cells from cord blood.

In Vitro Pregnancies
Couples using fertility treatments bank cord blood because they face the possibility of not having another opportunity to secure a genetically related sample of cord blood stem cells for their child.

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