One of the most exciting innovations in the medical community in recent years has been the advent of cord blood banks, and with them, the ability to cryogenically preserve an amount of your child's stem cell producing umbilical cord blood, to be used for transplant in case of an emergency one day. This can replace bone marrow in many instances, and is often preferable, due to the fact that it precludes having to locate a donor - many times not an easy task.
Undifferentiated cells are a hotly debated issue amongst the medical community, the legislature, and expecting guardians around the country. The placenta and umbilical cord blood are important wellsprings of undifferentiated cells and ordinarily have been disposed of as restorative waste.
A patient who receives a stem cell transplant using stem cells from a family member is recognized as the best treatment option for hematopoietic (blood-forming) reconstitution. In fact, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the 1-year survival rate for patients treated with cord blood stem cells from a relative was 63%-compared with only 29% from unrelated donors, and that number increases if the transplant recipient is using his or her own stem cells. Current data reflect that those that have been stored for fifteen years have the same ability as they did at the time of storage. Current research involving storage of cells also indicates that the cells derived from cord blood are likely to remain viable indefinitely. But what should expecting parents consider when deciding between family cord blood banking and public donation of their newborn's cord blood stem cells?
In family banks, parents pay the company to process and store exclusively for family use. The family owns the cord blood stem cells, which can be made immediately available to a family member should there be a need. Family banking attracts expecting parents who want the peace of mind of knowing that their newborn's cord blood will be saved and immediately available should a family member need it to treat a potentially life-threatening disease or condition.
In public banks, parents give up all ownership. The goal of a public bank is to collect and store only the largest units for potentially life-saving transplants. While many expecting parents donate their newborns' cord blood to public banks to help people requiring a life-saving stem cell transplant, they should be made aware that in some public banks, the criteria for storing collections are so strict that more than half of all donations are discarded and never made available to the public. This is because stem cell experts and transplant physicians agree that many cord blood samples may be too small to be used in life-saving stem cell transplants because they don't contain enough stem cells. With this concern, members of the medical community have started exploring other rich sources of stem cells with the understanding that patients with access to more stem cells would also have access to improved life-saving treatments. This research has led to the breakthrough of finding that placenta-derived stem cells, which have the potential to become different types of cells, could be isolated from the placenta with a proprietary technology so that they would be available for potentially life-saving treatment applications. This is process is now known by the medical community as Placenta-Cord banking.
With Placenta-Cord banking, parents pay the company to process and store stem cells derived from the placenta in addition to the stem cells from the cord blood. Like the stem cells found in cord blood and bone marrow, placenta-derived stem cells are non-controversial and free from the political and ethical debate surrounding other types of stem cells. Placenta-Cord banking provides expecting families with the added peace of mind of knowing that they have 2 units of stem cells instead of just 1, as offered by traditional services. This unique combination of placenta-derived stem cells and cord blood collects the most stem cells possible. And access to more CD34+ stem cells has been shown to improve transplant success and patient survival in the treatment of potentially life-threatening diseases and conditions.
Regardless of whether they bank their children's cord blood with a public or family bank, all expecting parents should be made aware of the lifesaving potential of their newborns' cord blood and be encouraged to privately bank or donate rather than allow for such a precious, life-saving source to be discarded, as is often the case.
Deciding on a cord blood banking method is not easy. There are many factors to consider when choosing what is right for your family. Below you will find a list of pros and cons for each type of Cryobank.
Public Cryobanks - Pros:
1) Accept free donations
2) Strive to provide suitable blood cells to help people in need free of charge.
3) They provide stored umbilical blood for medical research (sometimes at a profit).
Public Cryobanks - Cons:
1) Like any transplant, finding a suitable match can sometimes be a challenge.
2) There is no guarantee that the blood cells that you donated or a suitable match will be available if a family member should need it.
3) Even if a match is found, there is a higher chance of rejection when receiving blood cells from non-relatives.
Private Cryobanks- Pros:
1) Allow you to bank your baby's cord blood exclusively for your family's use.
2) If your child will need a stem cell transplant in the future, there will be no need to search for a suitable donor.
3) If a family member will need a stem cell transplant in the future, there is a higher chance that your baby's umbilical blood will be a suitable match.
Private Cryobanks - Cons:
1) For genetic diseases, a transfusion using a person's own umbilical blood may not be sufficient.
2) There is a fee for collection and storage.
3) Doesn't serve the "greater good"
Take your time to discuss and weigh out all of your cryo-banking. Both public and private banks offer your family a service that helps to secure your child's health.