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Choosing a bank (specifically a private bank) for her daughter’s cord blood made perfect sense to Julie Lehrman, a mom based in Chicago. “We wanted the extra assurance that we were doing everything we could to keep Lexi healthy,” Lehrman says. “I was older when Lexi was born, and there’s a lot we didn’t know about my mom’s health history, so we felt that we were making a smart decision.” Fortunately, Lexi was born healthy, and neither she nor anyone else in the family has needed the cord blood since it was stored seven years ago. But Lehrman has no regrets; she still feels the family made a wise investment. “Lexi or her brother or even one of us could still need that blood in the future, so I’m thankful that we have it.” But banking your child’s cord blood may not be the right decision for you. Read on to see if you should opt for private cord blood banking.
RENECE WALLER-WISE is a licensed clinical nurse specialist and childbirth educator at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Alabama. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.
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.
The primary benefit to cord blood banking is that it provides a type of medical insurance. This insurance is not from a financial perspective, but rather takes the form of having the necessary medical building blocks available should they be needed in the event of certain illnesses and diseases. Those medical building blocks are the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood.
Families that are predisposed to certain diseases, that are ethnically mixed, that are adopting a newborn child, or that have a family member who may need a stem cell transplant should take special care to understand the value the cells may provide and their storage options.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2007) states that the use of banked umbilical cord blood as “biologic insurance” is unwarranted. The AAP also notes that many of the claims of private cord blood banks are unfounded. Unlike ACOG, the AAP recommends cord blood collection and banking for all families; however, their distinction is that all cord blood should be banked in public banks for use by the general population. In one study, the researchers reported that when pediatric transplant specialists were surveyed, overall, they did not recommend private cord blood banking (Thornley et al., 2009). The AAP recommends private cord blood banking only if a full sibling has a medical diagnosis for which stem cells are currently being used for treatment.
You’ve just visited the doctor and the good news is that you’re going to have a baby and everything looks good. Thirty years ago, your doctor may have given you a baby book and information about products that sponsors want you to buy for your new addition. Today, along with pretty much the same materials, you’ll be asked to consider saving the blood of your newborn that’s left over in the umbilical cord and placenta after the delivery. Another big decision, and possibly a costly one.
Cryo-Cell, Viacord, and Cord Blood Registry are three of the oldest and largest private cord blood banks in the United States. They’ve been storing cord blood since the early ’90s, and they’re all accredited by the AABB. Cryo-Cell is located in Oldsmar, Florida; Viacord in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, California. Each of these banks has its own private labs that test for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, and human T-cell lymphotrophic virus (considered a precursor to leukemia); the testing is included in their registration fee.
Learning about cord blood banking shouldn’t have to be confusing – or boring. Watch one of our stem cell experts who also happens to be a former RN and Labor & Delivery nurse, talk cord blood banking 101. She answers the questions every parent has about banking cord blood and ViaCord.
6. Lou Gehrig’s disease. There’s hope that stem cells could help those with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The crippling disease comes with a grim prognosis: Many die within three to five years of diagnosis, as their bodies progressively damage muscle-controlling motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Scientists are exploring ways to coax stem cells into becoming motor neurons that could be transplanted into ALS patients, restoring their ability to move.
One of the factors that influence engraftment time is cell dose (Gunning, 2007). Cell dose is directly related to the volume of umbilical cord blood collected. Cell dose refers to the amount of useful stem cells in the sample of blood. Because of the limited volume of cells collected from cord blood, the amount of stem cells in cord blood is approximately 10% less than the amount obtained from bone marrow (Moise, 2005). A single unit of umbilical cord blood usually contains 50 to 200 ml of blood (Gonzalez-Ryan et al., 2000). If an amount of cord blood is less than this minimum volume, the unit is discarded as being unsatisfactory because the cell dose of the sample would not be high enough. Collecting an insufficient volume of cord blood occurs in about 50% or more cases of cord blood collection (Drew, 2005). In general, fewer stem cells are needed for cord blood transplantation, and usually a volume of 50 to 100 ml of cord blood will provide enough of a cell dose for a child or small adult. However, should the recipient need additional stem cells, it is impossible to obtain more stem cells from the infant because the cord blood volume is a limited amount (Percer, 2009).
To most people, the issue comes down to money. If you had unlimited money, you would spend a few thousand to even miniscually increase the chance of your child enjoying good health. However, since you probably don’t have unlimited money, you will have to decide how to best spend and save for your children’s future. If you invested the Viacord fee of $1550 plus $150 for the courier at your child’s birth in the stock market, you would have $12,210 by the time he turned 21. That would certainly help pay for college or even his medical insurance after he graduated from college. The odds are that your child will need a college education more than an autologous bone marrow transplant. So if you have to choose between one or the other, make the right choice by saving the money for his future.
Families should seriously pursue public banking, donation for research, or private banking instead of discarding their baby’s umbilical cord blood. We aim to be nonpartisan in our dissemination of information, but we believe that discarding your baby’s cord blood is a waste of a once-in-a-lifetime valuable resource.
Bielorai B, Trakhtenbrot L, Amariglio N, et al. Multilineage hematopoietic engraftment after allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation without conditioning in SCID patients. Bone Marrow Transplant.2004;34 :317– 320
The “cell recovery rate” is often used to compare processing methods. Expressed as a percentage, the cell recovery rate tells you how many cells are retrieved from the original cord blood collection, once plasma has been removed and red blood cells have been reduced or removed. It is expected that some cells will be lost during processing, and most processing methods have published cell recovery rates between 80%—99%
Lifebank USA is another private bank, located in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, that’s accredited by the AABB. What sets this bank apart from the others: it’s one of the few banks that store umbilical cord blood and placenta blood (this is done for free). Stem cells from placenta tissue can turn into skeletal tissue types such as bone, cartilage, fat tissue, and connective tissue, whereas cells from cord blood turn into different types of blood cells.
As a result of these advances, it is not unreasonable to hope that cord blood may eventually be used to treat a wider variety of auto-immune and degenerative diseases than is currently being done. If so, (and there are solid indications by researchers that this indeed is the case), it makes perfect sense to consider private cord blood banking.
StemCyte™ has extensive experience providing cord blood units for transplants in children and adults with life-threatening diseases. Other private cord blood banks may have provided family-related cord blood for transplants, but only StemCyte™’s cord blood units have been used to 2000 plus transplants to date.
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
Banking a baby’s blood and stem cells in a cord blood bank is a type of insurance. Ideally, you would not need to access your baby’s stem cells in order to address a medical concern. However, using a cord blood bank can provide peace of mind in knowing that you have a valuable resource if you need it.
Additional ethical concerns about umbilical cord blood banking involve the timing of clamping the umbilical cord after birth. Overall, the issue of when to clamp and cut the umbilical cord is controversial. There is no consensus on how early or how late in the birthing process the umbilical cord ought to be clamped and cut, although the cord obviously still provides nourishment and removes waste until it is clamped or spontaneously stops pulsing (Lothian & DeVries, 2010). However, some practitioners might clamp the umbilical cord early in an effort to maximize the amount of cord blood obtained for banking, and thus “short change” the child and allow the infant to become anemic (Drew, 2005).
It depends on who you ask. Although commercial cord blood banks often bill their services as “biological insurance” against future diseases, the blood doesn’t often get used. One study says the chance that a child will use their cord blood over their lifetime is between 1 in 400 and 1 in 200,000.
Blood naturally starts to clot when its outside the body. An anticoagulant is used to help prevent the cord blood from clotting while it is in transit to the laboratory for processing. CBR deliberately chose to use lyophilized (dry) heparin as the anticoagulant because of some potential advantages, including:
As with all important decisions you make, the more educated you are, the better. After all, you only get one chance to bank your baby’s cord blood and you want to make sure that you choose a cord blood bank you can trust. Cord blood banking companies—especially private ones—vary widely in terms of quality, experience, and even the technology they use to collect, process, and store cord blood.
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.
Thornley I., Eapen M., Sung L., Lee S., Davies S., & Joffe S. (2009). Private cord blood banking: Experiences and views of pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation physicians. Pediatrics, 123(3), 1011–1017 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
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