The Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord is the lifeline between mother and child in the womb. While everyone knows the importance of the umbilical cord in early development of the fetus, most of us, especially those of us who are over 40, have come to believe that after birth it is just something to be discarded. Modern science has proven us wrong.
We now know, with the help of scientists investigating stem cells and the use of stem cells to replenish bone marrow or grow new organs, that the umbilical cord can be beneficial far beyond it’s initial function of providing life giving nutrients to the developing fetus.
What The Umbilical Cord Does
The Umbilical cord connects the fetal circulatory system to that of the mother. While it does not connect to the mothers blood system directly, it uses the placenta to allow the transfer of material without the baby’s blood ever directly mixing with the mothers.
The umbilical cord contains 2 arteries and one vein whose functions are reversed of what we consider “normal”. In other words, the vein actually carries the oxygenated blood while the arteries carry the deoxygenated blood away from the fetus.
The reason the roles are reversed is that a vein carries blood towards the heart ( the baby’s, in this case) while arteries carry blood away from the heart.
Value Of The Umbilical Cord After Birth
The umbilical cord is a vital source of “stem cells“, due to the blood found in it, which can be stored in “cord blood banks” to be used later if the child should ever need to replenish it’s blood due to something like leukemia.
Many medical experts are actually against this practice because of the sheer volume of blood collected, but researchers insist that collecting and saving the cord blood in a cord blood bank is of great importance, not only for the scientific community but for the long term well being of the child.
There is a great movement afoot to encourage parents to at least donate the cord blood for stem cell research since previously an aborted fetus was needed to acquire embryonic stem cells a practice which carries with it great ethical issues.
Storage of cord blood is quickly becoming a standard practice with both private cord blood banking and public cord blood banking available to prospective donors. In the case of public cord blood banking it can be used in place of bone marrow transplants for anyone whose blood is a similar match for case of blood disorders. The research is also being done for use in curing Type 1 Diabetes as well as brain injuries.
It is simply amazing how modern science has changed to use of the umbilical cord, isn’t it?