Cord Blood Awareness Month is here, and it's the best time to not only define what cord blood is, but why it's a vital part of stem cell research.

The blood within a newborn child's umbilical cord contains young stem cells capable of renewing themselves and becoming specialized. The "master cells" are proven tools for treating children, replacing damaged cells with healthy cells that strengthen their blood cells.

Cord blood banking is a process of collecting and storing stem cells for potential medial use. This is important because nearly half of pediatric transplants globally involve cord blood, as well as 22 percent of all stem cell transplants. Cord blood has been used to treat immune disorders, tumors, cerebral palsy, leukemia and more than 70 life-threatening diseases, including cancer. Also, worldwide, cord blood has been used in more than 30,000 medical treatments over the past 20 years.

Cord blood is incredible because cord blood can easily adapt to a patient's body, diminishing the likelihood of rejection. A baby's own cord blood can be used to treat non-genetic conditions and cancers without the risk of rejection. Also, the collection of cord blood is a painless and quick procedure for mothers and babies.

The month of July is dedicated to reminding expectant families of the healing potential of cord blood stem cells. Mothers should be aware that they have options when it comes to their babies' cord blood: save it with a family bank, donate it to public cord blood banks or allow it to be discarded as medical waste. Also, siblings have a 25 to 75 percent chance of being a match for each other, allowing for the possibility of shared use if the need arises.

With millions of births in the United States each year, more than 90 percent of the stem cells in cord blood are discarded as medical waste, even though that blood could be valuably effective for one's own family or another's.

Approximately 1-in-3 Americans could benefit from regenerative medicine to treat major diseases. The conceivable uses and benefits are abundant: it can minimize disease progression in early treatment, and the preservation of cord blood "stops the clock" and protects the cells from aging and being exposed to environmental factors and viruses that can decrease their function.

The Newborn Possibilities Program offers free cord blood and tissue banking, as well as five years of storage to families with a qualifying medical need.