Umbilical cord blood can cure leukaemia and immunodeficiencies, and offers new possibilities for regenerative medicine.
By donating umbilical cord blood, you are saving lives.
The umbilical cord and the blood it contains are usually thrown away, but this blood contains elements that are capable of generating blood cells in suitable quantities. It can thus be used for transplants in the same way and for the same symptoms as bone marrow.
Collecting blood from the umbilical cord after the cord has been cut at birth does not entail any kind of risk to the mother or baby.
Transplanting the blood from the umbilical cord, like bone marrow, can help to cure children, and adults, suffering from serious, life-threatening blood disorders.
Umbilical cord blood banks are responsible for guaranteeing that the blood is properly stored and classified so it can be used in optimum condition.
Authorised transplant centres are responsible for the transplant authorisation and procedure in collaboration with the umbilical cord blood banks.
The BST leads CONCORDIA, an inter-territorial cooperation programme for cord blood donations based on the bonds of mutual trust that have been forged among the BST, the Department of Health of the Catalan Government, and the health departments of the Balearic Islands, Aragón, Navarre, Extremadura, Cantabria and the Principality of Andorra. In 2009 CONCORDIA became the leading European cord blood bank in terms of number of transplants.
At present, 58 maternity wards are associated with the CONCORDIA programme, which holds a stock of over 20,000 premium-quality cord blood units that are made available to any patient who needs them via national and international registers.
At this time, there are no banks in Spain authorised to provide autologous cord blood storage services. However, if and when one of the existing banks does receive authorisation, you may store your child's cord blood there as long as the following conditions are met:
You should also know that all cord blood units stored in this type of bank will be entered in the Spanish Register of Bone Marrow Donors (REDMO) and may be used to treat any patient who needs a cord blood transplant and is compatible with one of the cord blood units in storage.
Royal Decree 9/2014, july 4th, acknowledges the right of parents to store their child's umbilical cord blood for his/her own use if necessary in the future. At this time, there are no authorised autologous cord blood banks in Spain, but you may send your child's blood to any cord blood bank outside our country under the conditions set out in the abovementioned royal decree.
In accordance with Royal Decree 9/2014, july 4th, you may remove your child's cord blood from Spain whenever you wish, as long as the following conditions are met:
If you are pregnant and interested in giving cord blood, you should contact one of the cord blood banks that exist in Spain or one of the authorised maternity wards listed on the website of the National Transplant Organisation. In any case, you can also discuss any doubts with your gynaecologist/obstetrician.
Before donating, you will be informed of how the process works and, if you agree, asked to sign a consent form.
In order to donate umbilical cord blood, you will need to do the following:
The doctor in charge of the process will inform you of any pathology detected in the tests performed for cord blood donation.
The cord blood will be cryopreserved and eventually used to perform a transplant on an anonymous patient in need anywhere in the world, with no consideration other than the highest possible degree of compatibility.
No financial remuneration or compensation of any kind will be made or received for donating cord blood.
The process is very easy. Cord blood is collected at the moment of delivery. After the child is born and the umbilical cord has been clamped, a needle is inserted in the cord to draw the blood while the placenta is still in the uterus.
Numerous medical professionals, and particularly experts in the field of haematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation, take a dim view of autologous cord blood banking as there is very little evidence to support its usefulness. In addition, the Spanish National Transplant Committee, the European Commission and the Council of Europe have all issued resolutions stating their opposition to or, at the very least, expressing grave doubts about the existence of banks that store cord blood for autologous use.
There is no guarantee that blood harvested from a specific cord will be viable; up to 20% of all units harvested do not present an adequate cell count, while others may be contaminated during the extraction process or deteriorate in transit. In the end, as much as 40% of all donated cord blood units is not usable.
However, perhaps the most important objection is the fact that the probability of those stored cord blood units being useful to the child during whose pregnancy the mother donated them is extremely low. This is because practically all conditions requiring a transplant in childhood are caused by genetic or congenital factors that may also be present in the child's cord blood, which, once diagnosed, will render it useless for transplantation in that child or any other patient.
To date, there have been only 3 known cases of autologous cord blood transplants in the world (all for acquired rather than congenital diseases), as opposed to the more than 40,000 cord blood transplants performed worldwide. If a child is diagnosed with leukaemia or another congenital disease and requires a transplant, that child will need to use cord blood from a public bank even if his/her own cord blood was harvested and stored at birth.
If a medical expert has recommended that cord blood be banked for a family member with a certain disease (directed donation), this can be done through a public bank with the same guarantees that apply when donating for anonymous third-party use, only in this case the blood will be reserved for the donor's family.
In Spain, if someone needs a haematopoietic progenitor cell transplant, the REDMO (Spanish Register of Bone Marrow Donors) searches for a unit of suitable bone marrow, peripheral blood or cord blood at both the national and international levels, and patients therefore have the same chance of finding a compatible donor as if the search was initiated in the United States or any other European country.
Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, which are capable of generating blood cells to treat very severe malignant bone marrow diseases, such as leukaemia and other types of cancer. Although this has generally been the main purpose of cord blood, more recent studies also show that it is useful in other fields, such as regenerative medicine.
Furthermore, umbilical cord blood has other blood components, such as plasma and platelets, which can be used in new medical applications, such as treating ulcers and inflammation of the eyes.
When cord blood does not meet the cellularity requirements to make it suitable for transplantation, we can keep it in a biobank for use in research projects (approved by clinical research ethics committees) for the improvement, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of different diseases.
One of these is the induced pluripotency stem cell generation project, known as iPSC. These are cells that can be reprogrammed and converted into other types of cells, hence they are useful for transplantation or treating diseases caused by loss of cellular function.
A bank of UCB with these characteristics has to meet the following conditions for authorisation:
If you plan to store a unit of your child's cord blood in a cord blood bank outside the European Union, your maternity ward must contact the director of the National Transplant Organisation and request authorisation for that cord blood sample to leave the country. In addition to the request form, you must present:
Any healthy pregnant woman at her full legal age experiencing a normal pregnancy can become a cord blood donor.
Provides information on the benefits of donating, how to donate, who can donate, possible reasons for exclusion and centres where donations can be made.