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That may sound expensive, but the cost of processing cord blood and storing it in medical freezers for years on end is considerable. Even public cord blood banks say the initial collection, processing, and storage cost them about $1,500 per unit of cord blood.
Parents who wish to donate cord blood are limited by whether there is a public bank that collects donations from the hospital or clinic where their baby will be born. Search our list of public banks in your country. Parents who wish to store cord blood and/or cord tissue for their family can find and compare private banks in your country. Family banks usually offer payment plans or insurance policies to lower the cost of cord blood banking.
Why should you consider donating the cord blood to a public bank? Simply because, besides bringing a new life into the world, you could be saving an individual whose best chance at life is a stem cell transplant with your baby’s donated cord blood. This can only happen if you donate and if your baby is a close enough match for a patient in need. If you chose to reserve the cord blood for your family, then siblings who have the same parents have a 25% chance of being an exact match.
Publicly banking your baby’s cord blood is a wonderful gift. Unfortunately, however, your chance of donating your baby’s cord blood is very low due to the regional and financial constraints of public cord blood banks. It is estimated that cord blood from less than 3% of all U.S. births can be collected and stored by the public banks. We support any efforts to increase the resources available for public banking.
Cord blood donation should be discouraged when cord blood stored in a bank is to be directed for later personal or family use, because most conditions that might be helped by cord blood stem cells already exist in the infant’s cord blood (ie, premalignant changes in stem cells). Physicians should be aware of the unsubstantiated claims of private cord blood banks made to future parents that promise to insure infants or family members against serious illnesses in the future by use of the stem cells contained in cord blood. Although not standard of care, directed cord blood banking should be encouraged when there is knowledge of a full sibling in the family with a medical condition (malignant or genetic) that could potentially benefit from cord blood transplantation.
CBR presented data, in the form of a poster, at the 2008 joint annual meeting of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) and the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplants (ASMBT). In the poster, CBR showed results obtained during implementation of the AXP System. The published abstract reported that, under the controlled conditions of the study, the average recovery rate of the mononucleated cell (MNC) population was approximately 99% (specifically 98.7%). The results presented at this meeting are consistent with some of the high MNC recovery rates reported by other groups that have adopted AXP System (Rubinstein P. Cord blood banking for clinical transplantation. Bone Marrow Transplantation. 2009;44:635-642).
However, this does not mean more is better. Cord blood banks we reviewed are similar in terms of the quality of services they provided. Affordable services are still available, especially with the different discount options offered by many of the top cord blood banks reviewed.
Properly preserved cord blood is long-lasting. Cord blood is stored in a nitrogen freezer (the same technology used to freeze donated sperm), so it can last for a long time. “The scientist who first developed cord blood preservation methods in 1990 has confirmed that some of the first specimens he stored 23 plus years ago are just as potent as fresh cord blood,” says Mary Halet, Director, Central Region at Be The Match, which is operated by the National Bone Marrow Foundation.
Specializing in health and medicine, Sandra Gordon has written extensively about cord blood banking for national and regional parenting magazines. She also has written about baby products, including breast pumps, for national and regional parenting magazines, blogs and books. Her work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Parents, Prevention, Woman’s Day and Self. Gordon also appears on TV as a baby safety and money-saving expert. She is also the author of 10 books and the founder of babyproductsmom.com, a site dedicated to helping new parents gear up safely and within their budget.
Extracting stem cells from bone marrow requires surgery under anesthesia; extracting them from the blood requires taking a drug to stimulate their production. And in order to work, these stem cell donations need to come from a person who carries a similar pattern of proteins on the outsides of his or her cells, a molecular calling card known as HLA type. Stem cells found in cord blood don’t need to be as closely matched to work. Because these cells are so flexible, there’s more wiggle room between donor and recipient. That’s particularly good news for people of certain ethnic minorities who often have trouble finding matched stem cell transplant donors.
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.
Parents have the option to privately store their newborn’s cord blood stem cells. There are now over a dozen private cord blood banks, and more open every year. Some have their own labs, while others contract with a lab. Cord blood stem cell banking is not a regulated industry; there are no certifications or licensing requirements to open a cord blood bank. Several banks are accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks. Please keep in mind there is a big difference between being accredited by the AABB and being a member of the AABB. To be accredited, the lab must follow strict standards and be inspected by the association.
5. Alzheimer’s disease. Likewise, embryonic stem cells may come in handy against Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and deadly disorder that degrades and kills brain cells, leading to memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral problems. Stem cells may give rise to new treatments or even, some say, a cure; other experts have expressed skepticism.
The stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood are also less likely than bone marrow stem cells to be rejected in transplants. Considered to be immunologically immature, umbilical cord blood stem cells produce significantly fewer natural killer cells, creating a substantial decrease in rejection. Consequently, cord blood stem cells require less rigorous antigen tissue matching for transplants than bone marrow stem cells (Sullivan, 2008). Research indicates that a mismatch of up to two antigen sites still provides successful clinical outcomes (Ballen, 2006; Fox et al., 2007). In fact, researchers report that the rate of rejection for cord blood stem cell transplants is half the rate of rejection for bone marrow transplants (Ballen et al., 2001). When compared directly in cases of mismatched antigens, there was clearly less rejection in transplants involving cord blood stem cells than bone marrow stem cells (Moise, 2005).
A well-established history. Public banks are affiliated with nonprofit research institutions or hospitals, so they have a better chance of being managed more soundly. For families without a history of diseases treated by cord blood, such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that cord blood be donated to public banks. 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 choose to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to cut down on expenditures. Private cord blood banks are affiliated with business corporations, so, like any business, they may go under, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
A typical cord blood collection only contains enough stem cells to transplant a large child or small adult. This website has a page explaining the optimum transplant dose. At one time it was believed that cell dose limitations restricted the use of cord blood transplants to children. In recent years growing numbers of adults are also receiving cord blood transplants, either by growing the cells in a lab prior to transplant or by transplanting more than one cord blood unit at a time. More information about these trials is available on the web page about Research on Cord Blood Transplants.
When you consider that public banks can only expect to ship 1-2% of their inventory for transplant, you can quickly understand why most public banks are struggling to make ends meet. That struggle means that fewer collection programs are staffed, and there are fewer opportunities for parents to donate to the public good. We said earlier that public banks only keep cord blood donations over a minimum of 900 million cells, but today most public banks have raised that threshold to 1.5 billion cells. The reason is that the largest units are the ones most likely to be used for transplants that bring income to the bank. Family cord blood banks do not need to impose volume thresholds because they have a profit margin on every unit banked.
Tom Moore, CEO of Cord Blood Registry, the largest private cord blood banking firm, told ABC News conceded that there was no proof that the transplants worked, but added that there is strong anecdotal evidence.
An alternative to a related donor involves seeking unrelated HLA-matched adult allogeneic donors outside of the family.2,6,11 There are more than 7 million potential unrelated volunteer adult donors registered in the National Marrow Donor Program registry.17 Although the number of patients who receive unrelated adult allogeneic donor stem cell transplants continues to increase each year, many patients are unable to find a fully matched donor, which diminishes access to transplantation therapy. Nonwhite patients have a lower chance of identifying a fully matched unrelated adult donor because of genetic heterogeneity and lack of nonwhite donors. Over the past decade, unrelated-donor, banked umbilical cord blood has been shown to contain sufficient numbers of stem cells for successful transplantation between unrelated, partially HLA-mismatched individuals.19–23 With advances in the clinical practice of cord blood transplantation, most patients unable to find a fully matched adult donor can identify a partially matched cord blood donor.
Only three to five ounces of blood is collected from each umbilical cord. This small amount is enough to treat a sick child, but not an adult, unless multiple units of matched cord blood are used, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Private cord blood banking is recommended for families with a history of certain diseases. Specifically, these are families with diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. Why? The type of stem cells in cord blood can form all kinds of blood cells that can help treat these diseases.
Laughlin MJ, Rizzieri DA, Smith CA, et al. Hematologic engraftment and reconstitution of immune function post unrelated placental cord blood transplant in an adult with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Leuk Res.1998;22 :215– 219
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.
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).
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:
10. Organ failure. What better way to ease the shortage of organs for transplantation than to grow new ones? That’s what some scientists think, and with stem cells, that vision may become more than a pipe dream. Last year, researchers grew a beating rat heart in the lab with the help of heart cells from newborn rats, preliminary proof of the concept.
The process for umbilical cord blood harvesting is straightforward: An obstetrician or doctor harvests the umbilical cord blood at the time of the baby’s birth. Timing is very important, as the umbilical cord blood must be harvested quickly so that the cells remain fresh. The harvested umbilical cord blood should preferably be at least 75 mL to make sure that there is enough cord blood and stem cells to be transplanted at a later stage.
Lamaze International has created a continuing education home study based on this article. Visit the Lamaze Web site (www.lamaze.org) for detailed instructions regarding completion and submission of this home study module for Lamaze contact hours.
The syringe or bag should be pre-labeled with a unique number that identifies your baby. Cord blood may only be collected during the first 15 minutes following the birth and should be processed by the laboratory within 48 hours of collection.