Umbilical Cord Banking
As science advances, parents-to-be are inundated with innumerable possibilities to consider and choices to make. Frequently encountered among these is whether one should or should not partake in umbilical cord (placental) banking.
This decision is made harder by the fact that it must be made before the birth of the child, as birth is the only time the cord blood can be collected. Nevertheless, there is much that needs to be understood and considered prior to making this decision, some of which is discussed below.
What is Umbilical Cord Banking?
Umbilical cord banking involves the painless collection and subsequent storage of stem cells from both the umbilical cord and the placenta in blood banks. The underlying logic is that these stem cells, if saved, could have powerful therapeutic uses both for the child and others due to their ability to turn into other types of cells. For example, currently, stem cells from the bone marrow are used to treat multiple diseases including leukemia and sickle cell anemia.
Public v. Private Banks
Another important point that needs to be elucidated is the difference between public and private blood banks. The first and most imperative of these differences is that, while blood in a private bank is accessible to only you and your family (should you need it), blood in a public bank is a “donation” that is available to all that have a need and may also be used for research, leading to the possibility that the sample may not be available to you in a time of need.
Correspondingly, storing stem cells in public banks is free, while storage in private banks costs a hefty sum: comprising of an initial fee of $1,600 to $3,000 and an annual storage fee of around $100 to $200 per year.
Pros and Cons
· Therapeutic Use – Due to the presence of stem cells, cord blood can serve as a powerful therapeutic agent. For example, it could be used to treat diseases that are currently treated with bone marrow stem cells. However, if being used in the same child or a relative, the blood is easier to match to the recipient and is painlessly and easily acquired.
· Readily accessible to you – If you invest in private banking, the cord blood will be available to you should the need arise with either a guaranteed (use in same child) or higher likelihood (use in relative) of matching.
· New Therapeutic Applications – In addition to use in diseases that are currently being treated with other stem cells (i.e. from the bone marrow), new uses for cord blood are currently being investigated.
· Cost – As aforementioned, while donating to public banks is free, private banking, which reserves the stem cells for you and your family, can be quite pricey.
· Limitations in Therapeutic Use– It is important to note that there are conditions where cord blood does not have a therapeutic use. These include genetic diseases as the genetic factor(s) that caused the disease would also be present in the stem cells.
· Odds of Use – While there are great therapeutic applications of stem cells, the probability that you or your child would need to use the sample is slim.
· Treatment is usually only plausible with children – As only samples of up to 5 ounces are typically collected, there may not be sufficient cells to treat an adult.