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In the past years, there have been dramatic medical advances in the arena of stem cell research, and more discoveries are announced practically every month. Many doctors and researchers see great potential in the use of stem cells to reverse or cure many severe, life-threatening diseases. With these facts in mind, many parents are choosing to preserve the stems cells found in umbilical cord blood after birth. There are no health risks in doing so. The primary risk is that the $100 yearly fee for storage will be wasted in the event that the stem cells are never needed.
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.
CBR works with Quick International, a private courier service with 30 years of experience as the market leader in the transport of cord blood, tissue, organs, and the U.S. blood inventory. CBR offers our clients a unique “Track My Kit” system to provide progress updates as the kit containing the cord blood travels to our lab. If it gets lost or damaged while in transit with Quick International, you are covered by a $2,500 warranty.
Bunin N, Aplenc R, Leahey A, et al. Outcomes of transplantation with partial T-cell depletion of matched or mismatched unrelated or partially matched related donor bone marrow in children and adolescents with leukemias. Bone Marrow Transplant.2005;35 :151– 158
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).
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.
An accredited lab. In the United States, the FDA requires all public banks to have a Biologics License Application, but not private banks, though they are registered and inspected. Both public and private banks should have extra accreditation, which means banks are evaluated for the quality and accuracy of work. The two companies that handle accreditation are the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). Look for a bank with its own lab (some banks use labs at other banks), which means more regular quality control and testing standards.
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.
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.
Umbilical cord blood can save lives. Cord blood is rich in stem cells that can morph into all sorts of blood cells, which can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. There are a few ways for transplant patients to get blood cells (umbilical and placenta, bone marrow, peripheral/circulation), but cord blood is easier to match with patients, and because it is gathered during birth from the umbilical cord, it’s a painless procedure.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) takes the issue of privacy very seriously. See our Privacy Statement for information about how AAP collects, uses, safeguards and discloses the information collected on our Website from visitors and by means of technology.
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
Gluckman E, Broxmeyer HA, Auerbach AD, et al. Hematopoietic reconstitution in a patient with Fanconi’s anemia by means of umbilical-cord blood from an HLA-identical sibling. N Engl J Med.1989;321 :1174– 1178
There are so many things to think about when you have a child. One of them is the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord (which connects the baby to the mother while in the womb). It used to be thrown away at birth, but now, many parents store the blood for the future health of their child. Should you do it?
Another important consideration for autologous use is that, currently, it is unknown how long umbilical cord blood will maintain its usefulness while frozen. Research indicates that cord blood stem cells can be maintained up to 15 years, but it is unknown if the cells would be preserved over the entire lifetime of a person (Ballen et al., 2001; Hess, 1997). Furthermore, financial costs are associated with maintaining the cord blood over time. Kaimal, Smith, Laros, Caughey, and Cheng (2009) studied the cost-effectiveness of private umbilical cord blood banking for autologous use and concluded that it was not cost-effective in most instances because the chances that it would be used are extremely small.
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.
Because of their ability to regenerate, umbilical cord stem cells may provide the answers to conditions such as various forms of heart disease and diabetes. Medical researchers studying umbilical cord blood stem cells have recorded several positive observations in animal studies, including instances where cord blood stem cells have improved vascular functions in injured tissue, as well as blood flow and improved overall heart function.
Chandy M, Balasubramanian P, Ramachandran SV, et al. Randomized trial of two different conditioning regimens for bone marrow transplantation in thalassemia: the role of busulfan pharmacokinetics in determining outcome. Bone Marrow Transplant.2005;36 :839– 845
Cord blood specimens for non-clinical scientific research studies are also available through the Cord Blood Transplantation (COBLT) Study, funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
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).
Stem cells’ role is critical for regenerative medicine. A stem cell is a special type of cell because it is the basis for all the other cells in our bodies. Stem cells have the ability to develop into one of many different types of cells. This process of a stem cell becoming a specific type of cell like a skin cell, blood cell or bone cell is known as differentiation. The other unique ability of stem cells is to replicate quickly. Combined, these abilities can quickly replenish different types of cells, making stem cells a driving factor or major enhancement in the healing process.
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%
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.
Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, established in 1998, is one of the largest public cord blood banks. It’s affiliated with Duke University, where trials are currently taking place to treat children with cerebral palsy with their own cord blood. Parents can mail in their cord blood donations and receive financial aid if they have a sick older child or family member who can be treated with cord blood.
After a baby is born, the umbilical cord and placenta are no longer needed and are usually discarded. However, the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta is rich with blood-forming cells. (These cells are not embryonic stem cells.) By collecting and freezing this blood, the healthy blood-forming cells can be stored and may later be used by a patient who needs them.
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.
4. If your family, especially your children, are of mixed ethnic background, it may be impossible to find an adult bone marrow donor who is a perfect match. In that event, cord blood from even a partially matched sibling would be invaluable if a stem cell transplant is necessary.
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.
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.
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.
* Disclaimer: Banking cord blood does not guarantee that treatment will work and only a doctor can determine when it can be used. Cord tissue stem cells are not approved for use in treatment, but research is ongoing.
Some researchers suspect that umbilical cord blood contains other cells that may have therapeutic effects beyond the blood. Specialized immune cells may be able to tweak brain function, for instance. Trials around the world are studying umbilical cord blood’s capabilities in a wide range of diseases (see Table 2 here): Cerebral palsy, autism, diabetes and lupus are currently under investigation. The cells are even being tested for an ameliorating role in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
We chose the site of our lab for one reason in particular: safety. As one of the safest cities in the US, Tucson ensures our families’ samples will be protected from natural disaster. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, could interrupt consistent long-term storage of stem cells.
Frances Verter, PhD, founded the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood in 1998 and has been a Scientific Advisor to Community Blood Services since 2007. In 2011 the NMDP presented her with their Lifeline Award in recognition of her efforts to improve public education about cord blood donation.
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.
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.
Most stored cord blood is discarded. At public cord blood banks, a unit of stored cord blood has a greater chance of being used to help a sick child or used toward stem cell research. Private cord blood banks, on the other hand, eventually throw away blood that a family no longer wants to store or use.
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.
Cord Blood Registry® (CBR®) is the world’s largest newborn stem cell company. Founded in 1992, CBR is entrusted by parents with storing samples from more than 600,000 children. CBR is dedicated to advancing the clinical application of cord blood and cord tissue stem cells by partnering with institutions to establish FDA-regulated clinical trials for conditions that have no cure today.