Public vs Private Cord Blood Banking
If, after much contemplation, you decide to partake in cord blood or umbilical cord banking, a procedure in which blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is preserved for future therapeutic use, the next step is to decide where you want to store the blood.
At the moment, there are only two options: public or government-funded cord blood banks and private cord blood banks. However, choosing between the two requires careful consideration as they serve fundamentally different purposes, which are described below.
Private Cord Blood Banks
There are various advantages to banking in private cord blood banks. The first and most important of these is the fact that the cord blood is reserved for exclusive use by the donor and his/her family members (should the need arise).
This is advantageous as it leads to either a guaranteed (if used in the same child; an autologous transplant) or increased likelihood (if used in a relative; an allogenic transplant) of matching. Additionally, while one may find a match in a public bank, cord blood transplants from a relative are generally much more successful. Lastly, there is typically no additional charge for transporting samples to a hospital or facility when a transplant is needed.
However, there are also disadvantages to private banking. The most obvious among these is the hefty cost of storage, which is comprised of an initial fee of $1600 to $3000 as well as an annual storage fee of around $100 to $200 per year the blood is stored. Furthermore, there are cases in which cord blood cannot be used as a treatment.
This typically is the case with genetic diseases as the factor(s) that cause the disease would also be present in the cord blood stem cells. For example, in the case of sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition in which individuals have abnormally-shaped red blood cells (RBCs, or erythrocytes), an autologous cord blood transplant (i.e. one in which the donor is the recipient) would not be effective as the stem cells in the cord blood would themselves be affected.
Additionally, the odds that your child or a relative would need to use the privately banked sample is very slim. Nevertheless, private banking should be a strong consideration if there is a family history of treatable diseases, if a related individual is suffering from a treatable illness, or is in need of a stem cell transplant.
Public Cord Blood Banks
On the other hand, public or government-funded cord blood banks store cord blood (that meets the required criteria) without any cost to the donor. However, the drastic price difference between private and public banks comes with the caveat that blood stored in public banks is a donation that may be used by any individual with a need as well as for research, and, therefore, is not guaranteed to be available to you in a time of need.
Yet, this disadvantage is offset by the fact that your donation may be able to help others who are in need. Furthermore, if after donation to a public bank, you are in a situation that requires a stem cell transplant, it is important to understand that public banks will always endeavor to find the best match, including the original donation given that it is still available.
Other disadvantages of donating to a public bank include the fact that the cost for transporting the sample to the hospital or facility where the transplant is occurring is typically not covered. Additionally, only a limited number of hospitals provide the option to donate to public cord blood banks. Furthermore, if your facility does allow the donation of cord blood, there is a very high probability that your donation will be discarded due to a failure to meet the required criteria.