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In recent years, umbilical cord blood, which contains a rich source of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, has been used successfully as an alternative allogeneic donor source to treat a variety of pediatric genetic, hematologic, immunologic, and oncologic disorders. Because there is diminished risk of graft-versus-host disease after transplantation of cord stem cells using matched related donors, the use of less-than-completely matched HLA cord blood stem cells may incur less risk of graft-versus-host disease than mismatched cells from either a related or unrelated “walking” donor, although this remains to be proven. Gene-therapy research involving modification of autologous cord blood stem cells for the treatment of childhood genetic disorders, although experimental at the present time, may prove to be of value. These scientific advances have resulted in the establishment of not-for-profit and for-profit cord blood–banking programs for allogeneic and autologous cord blood transplantation. Many issues confront institutions that wish to establish or participate in such programs. Parents often seek information from their physicians about this new biotechnology option. This document is intended to provide information to guide physicians in responding to parents’ questions about cord blood donation and banking and the types and quality of cord blood banks. Provided also are recommendations about appropriate ethical and operational standards, including informed consent policies, financial disclosures, and conflict-of-interest policies for physicians, institutions, and organizations that operate or have a relationship with cord blood–banking programs.
There are several cord blood banks that are accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks. Most offer information on cord blood banking and provide private cord blood banking services. With a little research, you should be able to locate a credible cord blood bank online.
Maschan AA, Trakhtman PE, Balashov DN, et al. Fludarabine, low-dose busulfan and antithymocyte globulin as conditioning for Fanconi anemia patients receiving bone marrow transplantation from HLA-compatible related donors. Bone Marrow Transplant.2004;34 :305– 307
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
Cord blood banking is not always cheap. It’s completely free to donate blood to a public cord blood bank, but private banks charge $1,400 to $2,300 for collecting, testing, and registering, plus an annual $95 to $125 storing fee.
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.
Wall DA, Carter SL, Kernan NA, et al. Busulfan/melphalan/antithymocyte globulin followed by unrelated donor cord blood transplantation for treatment of infant leukemia and leukemia in young children: the Cord Blood Transplantation study (COBLT) experience. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant.2005;11 :637– 646
1. As today’s children grow up and some of them develop cancer as adults, autologous (self) cord blood transplants will become more commonly used. Pediatric cancers and adult cancers are completely different diseases at the cellular level (to learn more about cancer visit the website of the National Cancer Institute). While pediatric cancer patients rarely receive autologous transplants, among adult cancer patients the autologous transplants are more common than transplants from donors.
If the doubts of the AAP, weren’t enough to turn you off cord banking, the cost is enormous. At Viacord, (see ad on left) the price begins at $1550 at birth, plus $150 for a courier to deliver the blood, plus $95 dollars for storage a year. At these prices, that will cost you $2840 by the time your baby is 21.
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
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.
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
With public cord blood banks, there’s a greater chance that your cord blood will be put to use because it could be given to any child or adult in need, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Cord blood is donated and is put on a national registry, to be made available for any transplant patient. So if your child should need the cord blood later in life, there’s no guarantee you would be able to get it back.
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.
It’s hard to ignore the ads for cord blood banks, offering a lifetime of protection for your children. If you’re an expectant mom, there’s information coming at you constantly from your doctor’s office, magazines, online, and perhaps even your yoga class.
Private cord blood banking can benefit those with a strong family history of certain diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and some cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. Parents who already have a child (in a household with biological siblings) who is sick with one of these diseases have the greatest chance of finding a match with their baby’s cord blood. Parents who have a family history of autism, Alzheimer’s, and type 1 diabetes can benefit from cord blood. Although these diseases aren’t currently treated with umbilical cord steam cells, researchers are exploring ways to treat them (and many more) with cord blood.
The policy also points out that if cord clamping is done too soon after birth, the infant may be deprived of a placental blood transfusion, resulting in lower blood volume and increased risk for anemia later in life.
Insurance assisted payments: Some cord blood companies work with insurance companies that can help parents pay for cord blood processing and storage, particularly if one child in the family has an illness and might be able to benefit from cord blood use.
Both public and family cord blood banks must register with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and since Oct. 2011 public banks also need to apply for an FDA license. All cord blood banks are required by federal law to test the blood of the mother for infectious diseases. At public banks the screening is usually more extensive, similar to the tests performed when you donate blood. The typical expense to a public bank is $150 per unit.
Cord blood is the fastest growing source of stem cells in pediatric transplants, and ongoing research indicates that we’ve only just begun to harness the healing power of these amazing cells.3, 15 By collaborating with some of the country’s leading hospitals and research centers, ViaCord is helping to advance critical research in cord blood stem cell therapy and to unlock the promise of cord tissue stem cells.
A courier collection service. Private banks have a person pick up your donated cord blood, which helps ensure that it arrives at your chosen bank quickly and doesn’t get lost along the way, and that the temperature will remain consistent enough to be accepted at the lab. (Public banks usually send an insulated kit for you to preserve and mail the cord blood.)
There are usually two fees involved in cord blood banking. The first is the initial fee that covers enrollment, collection, and storage for at least the first year. The second is an annual storage fee. Some facilities vary the initial fee based upon the length of a predetermined period of storage.
When parents donate cord blood to a public bank, they are supporting patients around the world who are searching for an unrelated Allogeneic donor. When parents save cord blood in a family bank, they are reserving the options that the baby can use its own stem cells for an Autologous treatment, or an immediate relative (sibling or parents) can use the stem cells for an Allogeneic treatment.
Richardson SM, Hoyland JA, Mobasheri R, Csaki C, Shakibaei M, Mobasheri A. Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges for Articular Cartilage and Intervertebral Disc Tissue Engineering. J Cell Physiol. 2010; 222(1):23-32.
Family Cord, located in Los Angeles, has a high-quality lab, a top rating from the Better Business Bureau, and accreditation from AABB; it’s also been in business since 1997. Family Cord is one of the few banks that will also cover the cost of cord blood banking for the first year (there’s an annual fee after the first year) in cases where a baby has a sick sibling or another family member who could benefit from the cord blood.
All cord blood banks in the US are required to register with Food and Drug Administration. To ensure safety, cord blood banks must comply with FDA regulations, including current good tissue practice regulations, donor screening and testing for infectious diseases, including HIV I & II (the virus that causes AIDS), Hepatitis B & C, which can cause liver disease, Cytomegalovirus (CMV) a virus that can lead to pneumonia, Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) 1 & 2, which can suppress the immune system, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Treponema pallidum (the bacterium that can cause syphilis) and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a rare virus that can cause brain disease. Since 2011, the FDA has required public cord blood banks to obtain a license under a Biologics License Application.
§ CBR Systems, Inc.’s activities for New York State residents are limited to collection of umbilical cord tissue and long-term storage of umbilical cord-derived stem cells. CBR Systems, Inc.’s possession of a New York State license for such collection and long-term storage does not indicate approval or endorsement of possible future uses or future suitability of these cells.
Karanes C, Confer D, Walker T, Askren A, Keller C. Unrelated donor stem cell transplantation: the role of the National Marrow Donor Program. Oncology (Williston Park).2003;17 :1036– 1068, 1043–104, 1164–1167
The use of cord blood is determined by the treating physician and is influenced by many factors, including the patient’s medical condition, the characteristics of the sample, and whether the cord blood should come from the patient or an appropriately matched donor. Cord blood has established uses in transplant medicine; however, its use in regenerative medicine is still being researched. There is no guarantee that treatments being studied in the laboratory, clinical trials, or other experimental treatments will be available in the future.
A person will always be a 100% match to his or her cord blood, which is the best fit as there are some conditions that can only be treated with one’s own cord blood stem cells (or a perfect match). However, other conditions can be treated using donor stem cells that are partial genetic matches.
Private banking is an alternative option if you can afford the associated costs and if the family’s history suggests a higher probability of need. Families that are predisposed to certain diseases, that are ethnically mixed, or that include a family member who may need a stem cell transplant should take special care to understand the value the cells may provide.