Expectant parents have been privately banking and publicly donating umbilical cord blood for over 20 years. Similar to bone marrow stem cells, cord blood is currently used to treat and cure over 80 life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia. Over 35,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide.

Clinical trials using cord blood for regenerative medicine are also showing tremendous promise to potentially treat cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, acquired hearing loss and type 1 juvenile diabetes. It’s estimated that one in three people may benefit from stem cell regenerative medicine therapy in their future. 

Here are the stories of two children whose lives have been forever changed thanks to cord blood:

Dylan beats leukemia

Born in April 2009, Dylan Praskins was diagnosed with infant leukemia or ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) at only 8 weeks old. The cancer was aggressive and doctors quickly put him on intensive chemotherapy. Ultimately, a cord blood transplant was recommended based on numerous successes treating leukemia in other patients. A donated cord blood match was found and Dylan received his transplant in September of that year. His parents, Erik and Michelle, will tell you “it was nothing short of a miracle.”

Now, seven years later, Dylan is cancer-free. Dylan's response to the cord blood transplant has been amazing to watch. As with any aggressive cancer treatment, there have been side effects like glaucoma and epilepsy. However, this does not change the fact that he is with us today thanks to cord blood.

“Today, Ashton no longer needs a wheel chair and is enjoying new physical activities that were not possible before his infusion.”

Ashton's cerebral palsy hope

Ashton Smith was 6 weeks old when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects muscle coordination and body movement. It is most often caused by a brain injury or an abnormality in the brain resulting from infection or trauma sustained in the womb or during the early years of life.

Ashton’s physicians told his parents that little could be done for Ashton other than physical therapy and he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Lucky for Ashton, his parents had privately banked his cord blood when he was born. When he was 5 years old, they learned about a possible treatment using Ashton’s own cord blood stem cells.

They decided to try it. Ashton received his own cord blood stem cells in a simple 20-minute transfusion. Over the course of the next year, his parents and physical therapist noticed dramatic improvement in his balance and coordination along with his cognitive development. Today, Ashton no longer needs a wheel chair and is enjoying new physical activities that were not possible before his infusion. His parents feel very fortunate that they family banked Ashton’s cord blood stem cells.

While Ashton’s story is not unique, his story describes one family’s experience using cord blood stem cells in an emerging area of science called regenerative medicine. Although clinical trials in this area are underway, we remind readers that Ashton’s experience was not confirmed or validated through a clinical research study.

“If you do not donate or privately bank your child’s cord blood at birth, it will be thrown away as medical waste.”

Advice for future parents

It’s important to realize you only have one chance. If you do not donate or privately bank your child’s cord blood at birth, it will be thrown away as medical waste. Be proactive and speak to your doctor about your options well in advance of your due date.

A child’s own cord blood stem cells can be saved and used for future regenerative medicine therapies or for a transplant to help a matched sibling or blood-related relative.

Currently, seven out of ten people do not have a suitable matched donor in their family and will depend on a donor found in a public registry such as the National Marrow Donor Program to find a match should the need arise.

Individuals of minority and blended ethnicity are dramatically underrepresented on our national and global public registries for cord blood.

To alleviate some concerns: Cord blood has no ethical, religious, political or moral issues. Mother and child are not touched or harmed in the collection process. It is free to donate your newborn’s cord blood. Finally, hybrid banks often make public donation possible where public programs do not exist.

Banking cord blood has few risks and potentially fantastic rewards, and expectant parents should seriously consider make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.