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Store Umbilical Cord Blood (Unless...)

Updated on August 13, 2013
"Each year more than 35,000 Americans with life threatening illnesses find themselves in need of a stem cell transplant."
"Each year more than 35,000 Americans with life threatening illnesses find themselves in need of a stem cell transplant."

Umbilical Cord Blood?

Yep. We're talking about a baby's umbilical cord blood that is collected (after birth, of course!) These cord blood cells are not the same as embryonic stem cells from an embryo. The video capsule below titled "Stem Cell Introduction" explains this well.

It is essentially blood from the placenta that happens to be in the umbilical cord on its way out after a baby is born and no longer needs it to survive.

This blood is typically discarded at birth and historically regarded as waste until the 1970s when scientists started investigating whether there was a good use for cord blood.

Umbilical Cord Image - Not A New Flavor of Licorice Twists - from
Umbilical Cord Image - Not A New Flavor of Licorice Twists - from

Stem Cell Introduction

Stem Cell Therapy - The Ethical Dilemma

Cultivating and working with embryonic stem cells is a highly controversial topic. The ethical issues revolve around playing with, interfering or destroying human embryos. The reason scientists are excited about stem cells and stem cell therapy is because these kinds of "master" cells can eventually develop into cells of other types (blood cells, tissues, organs etc).

Saving umbilical cord blood basically means we can take these ethical dilemmas and throw them out the window (with consideration for the environment of course). The cord blood cells are an alternative to embryonic stem cells.

Cord Blood Collection Kit

Cord Blood Storage - The Options

Cord Blood Storage or Cord Blood Banking as it is commonly referred to are terms used to encompass the whole process of donating cord blood and storing it for future use in the treatment of diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.

There are generally two options when storing cord blood. There is private cord blood banking which involves storing the umbilical cord blood for use by the family at a later date. The cost of storing cord blood privately is in the thousands and there are a number of things to consider, which I'll mention later. The second option is to donate your cord blood for use by the public. This goes on a register as another available source of cord blood stem cells for patients requiring transplants and is free of charge for the donor.

Benefits of Cord Blood Donations

When saving and donating your umbilical cord blood:

  • You are doing something wonderful to help someone else in need;
  • You are providing an alternative source of stem cells that could save someone's life. The procedure for bone marrow transplants is very painful for both the donor and recipient;
  • Once the cord blood is stored, it is essentially "ready for use" immediately. Time usually spent searching far and wide for a matching donor can be reduced or even eliminated;
  • There is more opportunity with umbilical cord blood in terms of compatibility;
  • It's free if you are donating to a public cord blood bank. Note that donor information is kept private and the public records will only ever contain information about the cord blood sample;
  • There are no ethical issues as the umbilical cord and placenta are normally discarded after birth - you're not playing with a human embryo;

An Interesting Fact:
Did you know that some animals (and even humans) eat the placenta?

Disadvantages of Cord Blood Banking

  • Private cord blood banking is very expensive. It could be a couple of thousand dollars to extract umbilical cord blood for private donation and over a hundred dollars for storage every year.
  • At the moment, if you store it for use for your baby, there is no strong evidence indicating that your own cord blood is any better than that of a matching donor's. (However, your donation could make all the difference for someone else)
  • Cord blood extracted from the umbilical cord after birth is only really useful for children. This is because only ~ 180mL is extracted (or available for extraction) which is not enough for adult transplants.
  • There is the chance that the cord blood may contain the same disease you are trying to cure, so it may not be able to be used in this case.
  • It is a relatively new field with limited research (since the 1970s)

You Should Store Umbilical Cord Blood, Unless...

Considering all of the above information, I've decided it's worthwhile storing your umbilical cord blood for public use as the benefits seem to outway the disadvantages.

The only times I would NOT recommend Cord Blood Banking is if:-

  1. You can't spare 10-15 minutes right after the birth of your baby. That is, you really have to rush off somewhere or do something really important.
  2. You are a male human, animal (or both). Or you are a robot or of an alien species. Your cord blood (if any) is unlikely to have any benefit on humans.
  3. You live near Volterra, Italy as this area is known to contain a large number of vampires which may be attracted to your local cord blood bank if you store it there for long periods.


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    • WryLilt profile image

      Susannah Birch 4 years ago from Toowoomba, Australia

      Privately stored cord blood is very rarely used. Are you aware that donating cord blood can impact on the baby's health at birth? Personally, without a good reason, I think the blood that belongs to the baby, should stay with the baby.

    • profile image

      RMSorg 7 years ago

      Detailed post on a subject that is in the news more and more.. Natalie is such a champion for the umbilical cord blood cause! She is living proof that cord blood transplants do work for those naysayers that criticize what they don't understand! She is associated with Corcell, which is proving to be a top notch player in the cord blood banking market.. They are owned by Cord Blood America Newsroom

      Great hub!

    • MellasViews profile image

      MellasViews 8 years ago from Earth

      Well I just learned something new today... when I do have a baby, I will def be donating my cord! Or should I say, my babys cord? At any rate, helping others in need is what I am all about; considering this procedure of donating is free... I think everyone should do it.

    • marcofratelli profile image

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      I agree. Reading Natalie's website, I'm interested to watch the new movie coming out in Australia soon called "My Sister's Keeper". It seems to be about a related subject.

    • Zollstock profile image

      Zollstock 8 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

      Thanks for the giggles at the end! In all seriousness, though – there seem to be some real benefits to cord blood storage. We opted against it with our two children, mainly for financial reasons. Interestingly, the option to donate to a public cord bank wasn't even mentioned to us when we were investigating this matter. If they could increase the yield, we, as a society, might be able to skate around the touchy subject of stem cell research a little better.

    • marcofratelli profile image

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      UPDATED: I've added an RSS feed from Natalie Curry's website below.

      Natalie is a real life, inspirational example of how Cord Blood can save a person's life. -->

    • marcofratelli profile image

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Hey Shalini! Thanks heaps. I think there are many secrets to the human body that scientists still know nothing about. Some of which have been known before but now lost through the generations and we are on the road to rediscovering some of them.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      The human body is such a wonderfully complex thing, isn't it? To think that what was considered waste matter is now used to heal! Great hub - thumbs up. Love the humour at the end :)