By collecting and banking your baby's umbilical cord blood with the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS at Mayo Clinic, you make it possible for your child to participate in future clinical trials using stems cells from your baby's own body. The goal of the clinical trials is to strengthen the heart using stem cells.

When umbilical cord blood is collected through the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS, it is processed with the goal of using the isolated stem cells in current or future clinical trials. Umbilical cord blood can be collected at any hospital in the United States and shipped to the HLHS Program to be banked. To speak with an HLHS team member for more information, click here.

Listen to the Cause2Cure podcast to hear a heart mom's perspective on collecting cord blood with the Wanek Family Program for HLHS.

Q: What is umbilical cord blood (UCB)?

A: After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, the leftover blood that remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and in the portion of the umbilical cord attached to it, is known as umbilical cord blood (UCB). After birth, the baby no longer needs this extra blood.

UCB contains all of the normal elements of blood – red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma. It is also rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, similar to the stem cells found in bone marrow. Because of that fact, UCB can be used to treat a number of different disorders including being used for bone marrow transplantation. So far, UCB has been used to treat more than 80 different diseases, with the most common being leukemia. Patients with other blood diseases (such as myelodysplasia, severe aplastic anemia, and lymphoma), inherited diseases of red blood cells, immune system diseases, and metabolic diseases have also been successfully transplanted with UCB. Most transplants have been performed using unrelated UCB units donated to public banks.

As of August 2016, an estimated 698,609 cord blood units have been stored (1) and nearly 40,000 UCB transplants have been performed worldwide since 1988 (2). Now, more UCB transplants have been carried out than bone marrow transplants.

Q: How can UCB be preserved, and how long can it last in order to retain its properties?

A: The blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord must be collected immediately after delivery and either preserved privately or publically for possible future use or for research. This process is known as UCB banking. Stored properly, UCB can last indefinitely.

Q: Where can I bank my baby’s UCB?

A: There are a few options to bank UCB.

Public banks: By donating your newborn’s UCB to a public bank, you make it possible for public use by an individual struggling with a disease or for research. This donation could help someone who needs a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. To find out more information, speak to your doctor.

Private banks: This is an option for parents who wish to preserve their newborn’s UCB for possible individual or familial use in the future. There are numerous private cord blood banks that charge a fee to collect and store UCB for private use. All of them have information available on their websites and can be contacted via the internet or phone for more information. Another way to access a private cord blood bank is through your OB/GYN. Parents will receive the UCB collection kit with instructions before the delivery and are responsible for bringing to kit with them at the time of delivery. Usually, once the baby is born, the company takes care of the logistics of the transport from the birth center to its laboratory.

Directed banks: These banks are intended for a specific purpose. The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS is one example of a directed bank. The program collects, processes and stores UCB from HLHS babies to be potentially used for regenerative purposes in the future. To learn more, contact the program at HLHS@mayo.edu.

Q.  If I store my baby’s UCB in a private bank, can I take it out and use it in a clinical trial like the HLHS Program offers?

A.  Unfortunately, the way private banks process and store the UCB destroys it for potential use in a clinical trial in the HLHS Program.  Our research is conducted under strict FDA regulations, so the UCB must be processed and stored according to the guidelines for our specific trial.

Q.  Can I store UCB in more than one place?

A.  The blood volume remaining in the cord and placenta after baby’s delivery is usually low, and only about 8 teaspoons of blood can be collected from the umbilical cord.  Because the number of cells is strongly correlated with the volume collected, it is not recommended to split UCB in order to have more chances of being used.