If you or your partner are expecting, chances are that you have at least some knowledge about the placenta and what it does. What may be less clear, though, is whether it's worth considering banking your placental tissue.
What Is the Placenta?
The placenta is the temporary organ that acts as a baby's lifeline during pregnancy. It's attached to the wall of the uterus and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord.
Forming shortly after conception, the placenta provides a fetus with oxygen, nutrients, and growth hormones while removing carbon dioxide and waste. It also passes beneficial antibodies from mother to baby, providing an infant with valuable immunity in the months after birth.
The placenta is delivered shortly after birth. By the time it comes out, it's roughly the size of a small dinner plate and weighs about a pound [*]. The tissue is dark red, bumpy, and rich in blood vessels that resemble the branches of a tree.
What Happens to the Placenta After Delivery?
In most cases, the placenta is simply discarded after delivery. Placental tissue is a source of stem cells that leads some families to question whether the placental tissue should be collected and banked like cord blood and cord tissue, especially since a few cord blood banks offer the service. But despite what those few banks may say, preserving placental tissue does not offer any known benefits.
Here's what experts have learned about placental stem cells and how they compare to cord tissue stem cells, plus why it isn't worth storing placental tissue for the future.
What Are Placenta Stem Cells?
Stem cells are raw cell material that can grow and change into specialized cells. Placental stem cells are stem cells that have been collected from the tissue of the placenta.
Stem cells can also be derived from sources like cord blood and cord tissue. All of the stem cells derived from the umbilical cord blood and cord tissue are produced during the development of the fetus. However, stem cells taken from placental tissue contain a mix of both fetal and maternal cells and isolating the fetal stem cells from the maternal ones can be very difficult. This may affect the potential usefulness of placenta stem cells.
What Is Placenta Tissue Banking and How Does It Work?
Only two or three cord blood banks offer the option of banking placental tissue. This uncommon practice involves collecting and storing stem cells from placental tissue. The process happens alongside the collection and storage of cord blood and cord tissue.
After choosing your bank, you'll receive a collection kit that you'll bring along to the hospital when you give birth. After delivering, the placental tissue is collected along with your baby's cord blood and cord tissue, placed in the kit, and transported to the cord blood bank. From there, the cord blood and tissues are tested, processed, and prepared for long-term cryogenic storage.
Why Placenta Tissue Banking Is Unnecessary
The few cord blood banks offering placenta tissue banking say that the practice is worthwhile because placenta tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a type of stem cells not found in cord blood [*]. But placenta tissue stem cells aren't the only source of MSCs. Cord tissue is abundant in MSCs as well, and in fact, the stem cells derived from cord tissue are identical to those taken from placental tissue.
Just as important, the stem cells derived from a baby’s cord tissue are virtually limitless in supply. Cord blood banks have the ability to expand cord tissue cells thousands of times, ensuring that a family won’t run out of cells if they need them. So, there’s no additional benefit to storing placental tissue.
MSCs from cord tissue have also been studied extensively compared to those from placental tissue. While hundreds of clinical trials are studying the use of MSCs from cord tissue, there are no clinical trials looking at the use of MSCs from placental tissue. This means that cord tissue MSCs are much more likely to be used for potential treatment purposes as compared to MSCs from placental tissue. It's also difficult to isolate fetal placental stem cells from their maternal counterparts, which could impact how placental tissue stem cells might be able to be used.
There's also the fact that banking placenta tissue costs families extra money since it’s only sold as an add-on service to cord blood + cord tissue banking. The initial collection, processing, and storage process for placental tissue costs, on average, $800 to $1,300 on top of the costs of storing cord blood + cord tissue [*]. That's a lot to pay for stem cells that can already be obtained from cord tissue, since the cord tissue stem cells can be expanded by thousands of times, providing a virtually unlimited supply of these cells.
In short: Families that opt to bank their baby's cord tissue stem cells are already saving a rich source of MSCs. Banking placental tissue stem cells is simply paying for more of the same. Not only is it an unnecessary and redundant service, it’s also unethical for cord blood banks to offer this “service” since it offers no additional benefits to customers.
Cord Tissue Banking Benefits
If you're already planning on banking your baby's cord blood, it's worth considering banking the cord tissue as well. Here are several reasons why.
1. Cord Tissue Contains Unique Stem Cells
Different types of stem cells can be used for different purposes. Cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are FDA-approved to more than 80 diseases and conditions, including cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders like Tay-Sachs, to name just a few.
Cord tissue is an abundant source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are different from HSCs found in cord blood. MSCs show significant potential in the field of regenerative medicine, and in fact, are currently being studied as a potential treatment in more than 300 registered clinical trials [*].
2. Cord Tissue Stem Cells Have Different Benefits
Experts are still learning about the therapeutic effects of MSCs. While research on HSCs has focused primarily on blood and immune system disorders, research on MSCs is geared towards connective tissue disorders and regenerative medicine.
The main benefit of MSCs is thought to come from their potential to exert reparative, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects on a wide range of injured tissues [*][*]. For instance, research currently looking at MSCs from cord tissue as a regenerative therapy for heart disease has shown that the cells are capable of growing into heart or blood vessel cells, both of which could potentially be used to repair cardiovascular damage caused by a heart attack [*].
3. Cord Tissue Stem Cells Are Virtually Limitless
Cord blood banks can expand cord tissue cells by thousands of times, ensuring families have as many cord tissue stem cells as they might need. That makes it unnecessary to collect and store additional stem cells from placenta tissue that are identical.
4. Cord Tissue Stem Cells May Address Distinct Health Conditions
MSCs are currently being studied for their possible use in treating babies as well as siblings or family members in many common diseases that don't yet have a cure. These include: [*]
- Alzheimer's disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Heart disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
5. Cord Tissue Stem Cells Give Families More Options
Cord tissue stem cells offer distinct treatment opportunities compared to stem cells taken from cord blood. Collecting and banking both cord blood and cord tissue means that families have resources to access potential therapies for a wider range of health problems, compared to just banking cord blood stem cells alone.
6. Cord Tissue Banking Is Easy and Seamless
Cord tissue can be collected, processed, and stored at the same time as cord blood. There's no additional effort needed on the part of families, yet the payback has the potential to be significant.
Why Choose MiracleCord
MiracleCord leads the industry with the most advanced and comprehensive cord blood and cord tissue banking services.
Our highly experienced, state-of-the-art cord blood banking laboratory is FDA-registered and ABAA accredited, and our advanced processing methods have been proven to yield significantly more stem cells compared to other processing methods. Our StemCare thermal cord blood collection kit utilizes a sterile, FDA-approved cord blood collection bag that is safe to use in the sterile field for C-sections.
Just as important, MiracleCord puts families first. We're committed to providing high-quality services at affordable prices and offer a $100,000 quality guarantee ensuring the viability of your baby's cord blood stem cells.
Placenta Tissue Banking: Buyer Beware
MiracleCord doesn’t offer placental tissue banking services for a very good reason: We know this service doesn't offer any additional benefit to our customers.
Some cord blood banks may claim that placenta tissue banking is uniquely valuable, but offering this “service” is unethical as families have access to a virtually unlimited supply of the same stem cells from cord tissue.
In short, saving placental stem cells costs families more money without yielding any additional benefits, so it's best to steer clear.
If you have questions about banking your baby's cord blood or tissue, please feel free to contact us at 888-743-2673 and our cord blood educators will be happy to assist you.