Cord Blood, Cord Tissue and Placenta Tissue: What Are the Differences?

Not that long ago, when a woman gave birth to a baby, the umbilical cord and placenta were treated as medical waste and discarded. Now, thanks to scientists’ research, new moms can bank their child’s cord blood, cord tissue and placenta tissue in order to use them to treat serious health conditions in the future, should they arise.

If you’re trying to decide if banking cord blood or tissue is right for you, consider the facts:

Cord Blood 101

As its name implies, cord blood is the blood that is found inside of the umbilical cord. Interestingly, the blood that is found inside the umbilical cord is not the same as the blood inside the baby’s or mom’s body. Cord blood is rich in stem cells, which are cells that can grow into specific types of cells in the body. More specifically, the stem cells that are found in cord blood are called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which may be used to treat certain types of disease, including some forms of cancer and anemia as well as immune-deficiency disorders, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While healthy people create stem cells inside their bone marrow, if they have cancer of the bone marrow or other forms of cancer their body may stop making stem cells, so it is possible to get a stem cell transplant from cord blood.

All About Cord Tissue

Cord tissue contains cells that are not usually found in cord blood. Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Researchers have found that MSCs can form a variety of cells including muscle bone, cartilage, tendon and skin cells. Cord tissue is currently the focus of about 50 clinical trials, and researchers are hoping MSCs can one day help treat serious health issues including type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, Gregory Hale, a bone marrow transplant expert, tells Scientific American.

Placenta Tissue: Helping Mom and Baby

Like cord blood, the placenta is rich in HSCs. The placenta also contains MSCs, which have been successfully separated from the placenta to be used to help treat neurological and immune disorders, reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information. What makes the MSCs found in the placenta extra special is that they match the mom’s genetics; the placenta uses the MSCs during the 40 weeks of pregnancy to help grow. Once the baby is born, moms who opt to store cord blood, cord tissue and placenta tissue will have access to cells that can regenerate to grow into different tissues needed by the body. By including the placenta tissue in the banking process, the mom can store her own potentially life-saving stem cells.

Cord Blood Banking Services

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and want to learn more about how to save cord blood, cord tissue and/or placenta tissue, start by comparing companies. Consider what fees apply, such as annual storage fees or cancellation costs, as well as how many stem cells are collected and how long they are stored. Some companies offer placenta tissue banking, but many don’t. Be sure you know what you are getting before committing. You may want to discuss your options with your health care provider to know what he or she recommends.

From Medical Waste to Saving Lives

It’s amazing to think that blood and tissue that is so rich in health-giving stem cells was once tossed in the trash. Thankfully, researchers realized that umbilical cord blood, tissue and placenta tissue contains unique and life-giving properties and women can now bank it for later. While you certainly hope that you never have to use the stem cells, it is nice to have the peace of mind to know that that are there if you need them.

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