Cord tissue banking is the processing and storage of a newborn’s umbilical cord tissue or the components contains, such as Wharton’s jelly. Wharton’s jelly is a thick, gelatinous substance present within the human umbilical cord that contains a range of important cell types, such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), fibroblasts and macrophages.
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Cord Tissue Banking and Its Benefits
When a baby is born, parents have the option to preserve their newborns’ umbilical cord and the cells it contains for future therapeutic use. Umbilical cord tissue is a rich source of MSCs. In contrast, umbilical cord blood, is rich in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). In general, MSCs have a tendency to become tissues of the musculoskeletal system, while HSCs prefer to become cells of the blood and immune system.
Additionally, MSCs are well-known for their capacity to influence repair through paracrine signaling, a type of cell-to-cell communication in which they exert anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic (anti-scarring) effects.
While umbilical cord blood bank be either publicly donated or privately stored, umbilical cord tissue can only be privately stored. This is because federally funded public cord blood banks do not collect umbilical cord tissue, due to the lack of approved used for umbilical cord blood mesenchymal stem cells (UCB-MSCs).
In contrast, private cord blood banks offer cord tissue banking to families for a fee, because regenerative medicine technologies are rapidly expanding and MSCs from a range of sources are being explored in over 1350+ clinical trials worldwide.
History of Cord Tissue Banking
In 1974, it was first proposed that stem and progenitor cells were present in human cord blood. By 1983, the concept of using umbilical cord blood as an alternative source of stem cells for transplant had been proposed. In 1989, Cryo-Cell International was founded in Oldsmar, Florida, making it the oldest cord blood bank in the world. Since the first cord blood transplant was performed in 1988, stem cells derived from umbilical blood have now been used in more than 40,000 transplants worldwide.
However, the service of cord tissue banking did not emerge until much later. It was not until 2008 that cord tissue banking was introduced as a service within Asia, when a Taiwanese company, HealthBanks Biotech Company Ltd., began offering the service – making it the first company worldwide to do so.
HealthBaby, a Hong Kong-based company subsequently launched the service in 2009, and another Hong Kong-based company, CryoLife, added the service that year as well. Therefore, Asia is recognized as the region within which cord tissue banking emerged as a commercial service.
Cord Tissue Banking in U.S.
By 2010, the first cord blood bank in the U.S. (Cord Blood Registry) added cord tissue banking as a commercial service. Today, approximately 90% of private U.S. banks and 70% of private international banks offer cord tissue banking. Put simply, pairing cord tissue storage with cord blood storage is widespread practice within the U.S. and worldwide.