The umbilical cord is present in every mammal. It is the link between the developing embryo and the placenta, an organ attached inside the uterus that produces the pregnancy hormones. The umbilical cord is made out of three blood vessels. The importance of it was not known until recently. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord functions as the carrier for nutrients, oxygenated blood, and deoxygenated blood to and from the placenta through the umbilical arteries and veins.
The umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, which can develop into any type of cells and divide to produce more of their kind. They are only found in higher forms of organisms. There are two types of stem cells in the umbilical cord – cord blood stem cells and cord tissue stem cells. In recent years, through the science of cord banking, both the types of stem cells are preserved. They are then used for various purposes because of their potential to develop into specialised cells. After the baby is born, it is very important to store and preserve the umbilical cord in cord banks, as it could be of great use for your child in the future.
Cord blood stem cells
Cord blood is the blood left in the placenta and the umbilical cord after the baby is born. The cord blood contains young stem cells that can renew themselves. They can produce all the other cells that are found in blood, including the cells involved in our immune system. Later, transplants of these stem cells can be used to treat blood diseases like leukaemia, lymphoma, SCID, anaemia, types of tumours and other diseases.
The stem cells found in the umbilical cord are similar to the stem cells found in the bone marrow. However, the stem cells from the umbilical cord have proven to be more useful than the ones obtained from the bone marrow.
Cord tissue stem cells
Cord tissue is the lining membrane of the umbilical cord. It is an extension of that part of the amniotic membrane which covers the placenta. The cord tissue is a rich source of two strains of stem cells. The epithelial stem cells are derived from the amniotic layer and the mesenchymal stem cells from the sub-amniotic layer.
The benefits of these stem cells extend to close biological family members too. Cord tissue stem cells have the ability to modify the immune system in the area where it has been damaged. With these cells, doctors can help treat diseases like lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
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