Cord blood banking is the collection of vital stem cells from the umbilical cord at the time of birth for future use to treat certain disease and conditions. Over the past several years, cord blood banking has grown to be a popular practice but is it worth it?
Well, that all depends on why you are considering banking your umbilical cord blood. Are you banking "just in case" you need it in the future or are you banking to help treat an ill family member who may benefit from the stem cells found within cord blood? Whatever the reason, the choice is personal.
You will see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
What is cord blood?
Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells, which can be used to treat adults and children for a variety of illnesses and disorders and is, in certain cases, more advantageous than bone marrow or peripheral stem cell transplantation.1
The stem cells that form blood and immune cells are known as hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). They are ultimately responsible for the constant renewal of blood.
In fact, more than 7,000 adults and children have undergone umbilical cord blood transplants since 1988 for a variety of disease states.
Although the chances of ever using the stored cord blood is low, approximately 1 in 2,700, the choice to store cord blood has the potential to meet a variety of personal family needs.1,2
Situations may arise in which an immediate family member may benefit from your stored umbilical cord blood, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports considering cord blood banking for this use.1
The collection process is simple and includes withdrawing blood from the clamped umbilical cord with a special collection kit, including a needle with a sealable bag attachment. The placenta will be delivered once the collection process is complete, around the 10 minute mark.2
At times, cord blood collection is not able to be completed due to several reasons including:2
- Lack of cord blood due to premature delivery or a multiple gestation pregnancy (more than one baby)
- Emergency situations
- Maternal infections such as herpes, genital warts, placental infection or amniotic fluid infection.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are cells that are capable of maturing into a wide variety of cells found within the body.2
Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body.
What makes cord blood stem cells so important is that they are "blood-forming" and have the ability to replace older blood cells with new ones, which is very useful in treating certain diseases such as blood, immune system and metabolic disorders.
Additionally, due to the side effects of cancer treatments on the immune system, these stem cells can be used to counteract these effects.
Not all stem cells can be used, however. For example, stem cells from a baby affected by a genetic abnormality cannot be utilized to treat the malfunction because the altered genes will remain present within the stem cells collected.1,2
Additionally, if the child who has cord blood stored develops leukemia, those stem cells cannot be used - however, they can receive healthy donor stem cells.
What is the difference between public and private cord blood banking?
You can choose to store your cord blood in one of two types of storage facilities - public or private.
Using a private cord blood bank ensures that the cord blood is stored specifically for your baby or family's use.
When your cord blood is stored in a public bank, it is accessible to anyone who is in need of the stem cells and is found to be a match for the cells. There is a rigorous screening process to be able to bank your cord blood in a public bank, however, there is no collection cost.1,2
When you choose to store your cord blood in a private bank, it is accessible for personal use, either to treat the child who donated the stem cells or a relative.
There is a cost incurred to collect and store the umbilical cord cells, which varies by company. The initial year one investment ranges in cost from $895-$2,999 USD. Some banks will include storage for 20-21 years in the year one investment whereas others charge an annual storage fee ranging from $100-$175 USD.3
If you are considering cord blood banking, speak with your health care provider with questions or for more information.
Recent developments on stem cells from MNT news
Millions of people in the US suffer with dry mouth, a very uncomfortable feeling of insufficient saliva in the mouth that can lead to serious health problems. Now, there is the promise of relief, as a new study shows how - with the help of silk fibers - it may be possible to generate new salivary glands out of stem cells.
For the first time, scientists have restored organ function in a severely damaged liver in a live animal by transplanting lab-grown stem cells. The achievement brings closer the day when cell-based therapies that regenerate the organ replace the need for liver transplants.