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Cord Blood - Private Banking vs Public Donation
Cord blood is the blood that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after the umbilical cord is cut. In the past it has been discarded, but now it can be collected after the umbilical cord has been cut, providing precious stem cells. If you decide to collect the rich resource, will you keep it for your own family's use or donate it to a public cord blood bank? Whatever you decide, this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity because cord blood stem cells are unlike any other.
Cord Blood Success Story
Why Collect Cord Blood?
Cord blood contains a rich store of stem cells, unique to the infant and the infant's family. Stem cells are the "master" cells of the body, which can be used to create all kinds of human cells and tissue. The idea of banking is that the stems cells can be utilized later to treat the donor child or a relative, but it can also be stored in a public bank, which will distribute it for use by the general public or for research. While private banking is growing in popularity and is more widely available, public banking has greater support within the medical community. Private banking is actually against the law in some European countries. Making matters worse, all stem cell research is a hot political topic and public cord blood banking has suffered from a lack of funding, but things are changing.
Right now, stem cells are mainly used to regenerate blood and boost the immune system after a person receives an organ transplant, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The medicine that destroys cancer cells also kills stem cells. The infusion of new stem cells makes its way into the patient's bone marrow where it then creates new blood.
In addition, cord blood stem cells could one day treat heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, among others.
Why Go Private?
Private banking may be recommended when there is a family history of a specific genetic disorder. Some families adopting a newborn choose to bank the blood because it may be the only source of stem cells for the child later in life. Families who have had trouble conceiving or have conceived by in vitro may also be more interested in the availability of stem cells because they may not conceive another child.
Private blood banking is expensive. It can cost up to several thousand for collection plus an annual storage fee. A public bank usually will not charge the collection fee when cord blood is donated. However, the doctor will probably still charge a nominal fee, which usually isn't covered by insurance. Or the doctor may donate time for the procedure.
Cord Blood Registry - World Leader Cord Blood Banking
How Will Donated Cord Blood Be Used?
The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 authorized $265 million for stem cell therapy, research, and treatments. In addition, it set aside $79 million for collection. The goal is to build the nation's supply of public cord blood by 150,000 new units. A larger, genetically diverse supply of cord blood is hoped to provide matches for ninety percent of patients.
Cord blood not suitable for transplant purposes will be used for research.
What’s So Great About Cord Blood Stem Cells?
Cord blood stem cells are the youngest of all stem cells that are safe to harvest. The other source of young stem cells is embryos. Their harvest and use has been debated. Cord blood, once a waste product, may prove a less political answer to collecting these valuable resources. Stem cells can also be harvested from the bone marrow of healthy adults, but these cells are not as versatile as the younger cells. It is also difficult to find a bone marrow match. A ready supply of cord blood also means the cells are available immediately if needed, increasing the patient's chance of survival.
The decision is a practical one as well as a moral issue. The odds that your child will use the stem cells within the cord blood are very small. Cord blood donation may do more to further the science of its use than keeping the blood in a private bank. There is also the matter of the expense. However, if your child happens to suffer from leukemia for example, and her own cord blood cells are available, you will be grateful to have a supply of the perfect stem cells.
The decision is difficult, but one thing seems clear. Someone ought to benefit from the stem cells, so if you choose not to bank the cord blood privately, donate it if you can.