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Anyway, the excitement over the embryonic cells comes from their remarkable ability, as biological blank slates, to become virtually any of the body’s cell types. Many observers believe the president’s move will accelerate the hunt for cures for some of our most vexing diseases. However, the benefits are largely hypothetical, given the infancy of the field, and are offset by some real obstacles: The risks of embryonic stem cells, as well as cells programmed to become like them, including the possibility they will actually cause cancers in people who receive them. Nonetheless, here’s a look at 10 health problems that stem cells might someday cure or at least help treat.
Your child may never need it. Stem cell-rich cord blood can be used to treat a range of diseases, but Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, estimates that there’s only a 1 in 217 chance that your child will ever need a stem cell transplant with cord blood (or bone marrow). This is particularly true if the child doesn’t have a family history of diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell anemia. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states cord blood has been used to treat certain diseases successfully, there isn’t strong evidence to support cord blood banking. If a family does choose to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to cut down on expenditures.
Cord blood banking takes blood from the umbilical cord at the time of birth, and donates it to a public blood bank, or stores it in a private one. Since this blood is so rich in stem cells, which have the potential to become any human cell, it could someday be used as a treatment for the child or their family members.
One of the key things you’ll want the cord blood bank’s representative to explain to you is how the cord blood bank collects and stores cord blood. Collection and storage methods may differ across cord blood banking companies, and you’ll want to be sure that the cord blood bank complies with all federal standards.2
Anthony’s doctors found a match for him through the New York Blood Center’s National Cord Blood Program, a public cord blood bank. Unlike private banks, public banks do not charge to collect cord blood, they charge a patients insurance company when cells are used. And once it is entered in the public system, the blood is available to anyone who needs it.
The cord blood collection process is simple, safe, and painless. The process usually takes no longer than five minutes. Cord blood collection does not interfere with delivery and is possible with both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.
Refer-a-friend program: The New England Cord Blood Bank gives families $100 for each friend they refer to the company, so customers have further incentive to choose the company for storage and processing.
Of particular interest are the flexible hematopoietic stem cells important in that initial transplant. In certain cases, transplanting these cells might be able to reboot a person’s body and get rid of a disease-related defect. Cord blood transplants are similar to bone marrow transplants. A person with leukemia, for instance, might have his own cancerous blood cells wiped out with chemotherapy and radiation. Healthy, non-cancerous stem cells from a donor can then repopulate the blood.
Donating to research is another alternative. In some areas, you may be able to donate your newborn’s cord blood stem cells to a university or biotech firm. There are also now several private banks who offer to bank your baby’s cord blood as a donation, but they will typically sell it to a research facility. Cord Blood Options will be compiling additional data for this section in the near future.
The procedure of cord clamping can be delayed for a considerable period of time. However, the delay has to be a brief one. It cannot be delayed more than one or two minutes. If the procedure of clamping the cord is delayed for too long, the blood present in the cord might clot and once the blood clots it does not benefit anyone. Neither does it help your baby nor can it be collected for storage.
Cord blood transplantation has been shown to be curative in patients with a variety of serious diseases. Physicians should be familiar with the rationale for cord blood banking and with the types of cord blood–banking programs available. Physicians consulted by prospective parents about cord blood banking can provide the following information:
CBR’s laboratory was specifically designed for newborn stem cell processing and storage, and consequently, CBR has invested millions of dollars to help ensure the long-term safety and viability of your newborn’s stem cells.
Shai was a feisty little girl whose mother used her scientific background to search for the best approach to cure her cancer. Shai narrowly escaped death many times, including a recovery that even her doctors considered a miracle, yet she died at dawn on the day that she would have begun kindergarten. Her mother went on to found this website and charity in her memory. Read more…
Some brochures advertising private cord blood banking show children with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, who were treated with their own stem cells. In the case of Cord Blood Registry, the company lists all stem cell transplants conducted at Duke University. In a list of individuals treated in their “stem cell therapy data” cerebral palsy is listed. However, transplants were part of an early research study and studies of efficacy are just now underway.
Childbirth educators may be one of the first resources that an expectant family turns to in order to gain more knowledge to make an informed decision about collecting umbilical cord blood in the birthing process. Therefore, the childbirth educator should be well versed on the topic, so that as questions from class participants arise, the multiple facets of umbilical cord blood banking can be explored.
Americord offers parents the ability to collect stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord soon after the child’s birth. These stem cells, obtained from cord blood, cord tissue and placenta tissue, can be used to help treat genetic diseases and other threats to the baby’s life. Placenta tissue stem cells can also be used to benefit the mother.
Given the difficulty in estimating the need for using one’s own cord blood cells for transplantation, private storage of cord blood as “biological insurance” is unwise. However, banking should be considered if there is a family member with a current or potential need to undergo a stem cell transplantation.
Regulatory agencies (eg, FDA, Federal Trade Commission, and state equivalents of these federal agencies) are encouraged to have an active role in providing oversight of the cord blood program. All cord blood–banking programs should comply with FACT or equivalent accreditation standards.
Certain public cord blood banks let you mail in your cord blood. You have to decide before the birth if you want to donate your cord blood. If the hospital where you’re delivering doesn’t accept donations, you can contact a lab that offers a mail-in delivery program. After you’ve passed the lab’s screening process, they’ll send you a kit that you can use to package your blood and mail it in, explains Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation (parentsguidecordblood.org), a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists.
Cancellations prior to CBR’s storage of the samples(s) are subject to an administrative fee of $150. If you terminate your agreement with CBR after storage of the sample(s), you will not receive a refund.
For families that choose to bank cord blood, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends public cord blood banking. Estimates vary, but the chances of a child having a stem cell transplant, with either bone marrow or cord blood, are 1 in 217 over a lifetime. Although the AAP states cord blood has been used to treat certain diseases successfully, there isn’t strong evidence to support cord blood banking. If a family does decide on cord blood banking, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to cut down on costs. If you donate cord blood and your child eventually needs it, you can get it back as long as it hasn’t been discarded or used.
To explain why cord blood banking is so expensive in the United States, we wrote an article with the CEO of a public cord blood bank that lists the steps in cord blood banking and itemizes the cost of each one.
Are public banks and family banks the same, except for who may use the cord blood and the cost to the parents? No. Public banks are subject to much higher regulatory requirements, and compliance with regulations carries costs. At a family bank you pay the bank enough to cover the cost of storing your baby’s cord blood, plus they make a profit. When you donate to a public bank, it costs you nothing, but the bank pays more on processing each blood collection than at a family bank. Let’s look at the steps that take place in the laboratory.
Since 1988, cord blood transplants have been used to treat over 80 diseases in hospitals around the world. Inherited blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia can be cured by cord blood transplant. Over the past decade, clinical trials have been developing cord blood therapies for conditions that affect brain development in early childhood, such as cerebral palsy and autism.
Tracey Dones of Hicksville, N.Y., paid to bank her son Anthony’s cord blood. But four months after he was born, Anthony was diagnosed with osteopetrosis, a rare disease that causes the body to produce excess bone, leads to blindness, and can be fatal if left untreated.
There are around 20 companies in the United States offering public cord blood banking and 34 companies offering private (or family) cord blood banking. Public cord blood banking is completely free (collecting, testing, processing, and storing), but private cord blood banking costs between $1,400 and $2,300 for collecting, testing, and registering, plus between $95 and $125 per year for storing. Both public and private cord blood banks require moms to be tested for various infections (like hepatitis and HIV).
Ballen KK, Kurtzberg J, Lane TA, et al. Racial diversity with high nucleated cell counts and CD34 counts achieved in a national network of cord blood banks. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant.2004;10 :269– 275
Eapen M, Horowitz MM, Klein JP, et al. Higher mortality after allogeneic peripheral-blood transplantation compared with bone marrow in children and adolescents: the Histocompatibility and Alternate Stem Cell Source Working Committee of the International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry. J Clin Oncol.2004;22 :4872– 4780
The choices expectant parents make today go beyond finding out the gender of their baby. They span beyond deciding whether to find out if their child, still in the womb, may potentially have a genetic disorder. Today, many parents must decide whether to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood so it will be available to heal their child if at any point in the child’s lifetime he or she becomes sick.
Cord blood has been shown to contain pluripotent stem cells that have the potential to differentiate into nonhematopoietic tissue, such as cardiac, neurologic, pancreatic, and skin tissue, in vitro.53,54 Extensive laboratory research is taking place to explore the potential therapeutic benefit of cord blood under these circumstances. The results of this research will be necessary to formulate future recommendations regarding autologous cord blood banking.
As you’re making your cord blood bank comparisons, you may want to factor in the stability of the bank. You’re choosing to store your baby’s cord blood in case it might be needed in the future, so you don’t want the bank to go out of business. Parentsguidecordblood.org offers detailed reviews of every public and private cord blood bank in the U.S.