Public and Private Providers
Cord Blood Banking Is Handled by Both Public and Private Providers
The first transplant using cells recovered from an umbilical cord was performed in 1988 in Paris, France. The cutting-edge procedure was done to treat a boy suffering from Fanconi anemia, a potentially life-threatening condition. Since then, more than 35,000 cord blood transplants have been performed.
Metabolic Disorder Treatment
Blood cord cell transplants are used to treat metabolic disorders in children who are born with hematopoietic malignancies, genetic disorders of the blood and immune system disorders.
Umbilical Cord Specialty
The reason blood taken from umbilical cords has special properties is because it’s rich in stem cells. Stem cells are invaluable because they can be used as the basis to grow new tissues of more than one variety. Before blood stem cells came into use, it was common to use bone marrow transplants for similar purposes, especially to treat conditions like leukemia.
The Process of Cord Blood Banking
Cord blood stem cells are collected from inside an umbilical cord and placental tissues immediately after a baby is born. This blood is then carefully screened and frozen. Specialists call cord blood a “cord blood unit.” It is important to note there is a distinct difference between embryonic stem cells and stem cells from cord blood. The latter are hematopoietic stem cells. The use of embryonic stem cells has been associated with ethical controversies. That’s not the case with cord blood cells.
The Origin of Cord Blood Banks
Once transplants using cord blood stem cells became a widely used procedure, it became increasingly important for doctors to have access to a steady supply. The solution was to create cord blood banks, similar to the regular blood banks most people are familiar with when they give blood or get a transfusion in a hospital.
2 Forms of Cord Blood Banks
Cord blood banking takes two forms today – those handled by public medical providers and private cord blood banking firms. Public cord blood banks work in the same fashion as traditional blood banks in that they accept donations from anyone. This supply can be used by all patients in need. Private cord blood banking, however, is used solely by the donor or her family.
Private Cord Blood Banking
Private cord blood banking is perfectly legal, but the practice has generated some controversy in the medical community and among the public at large. One aspect is the expense. A private cord blood bank charges about $2,000 for the extraction procedure and then about $200 a year for storage.
Possibility of Requiring to Use Cord Blood
Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out that the odds of an individual or family member needing to use cord blood cells is about 1 in 200,000. The AAP recommends only those families with a history and identified genetic disorder should store umbilical blood cells in a private bank. For the general public, the American Academy of Pediatrics called private cord blood banking a form of “biological insurance” and “unwise.” The AAP encourages parents to donate umbilical blood to a public bank because of the potential it holds for saving many lives.
Worth the Cost
However, for people who can afford private cord blood banking, the cost is worth it for their own peace of mind, and there have been a small number of cases where private cord blood banks have saved the lives of family members.