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You and your baby’s personal information are always kept private by the public cord blood bank. The cord blood unit is given a number at the hospital, and this is how it is listed on the registry and at the public cord blood bank.
Umbilical cord blood contains haematopoietic (blood) stem cells. These cells are able to make the different types of cell in the blood – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Haematopoietic stem cells, purified from bone marrow or blood, have long been used in stem cell treatments for leukaemia, blood and bone marrow disorders, cancer (when chemotherapy is used) and immune deficiencies.
Adverse effects are similar to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, namely graft-versus-host disease if the cord blood is from a genetically different person, and the risk of severe infection while the immune system is reconstituted. There is a lower incidence with cord blood compared with traditional HSCT, despite less stringent HLA match requirements. 
Pregnant women sometimes have questions or concerns regarding umbilical cord blood donation. Two common questions are: Can their infant’s cord blood be used to benefit MS research? Another question: Is it worthwhile to “bank” their infant’s umbilical cord blood for the benefit of a family member who might need the umbilical stem cells for future treatment of their MS?
Stem cells from cord blood can be given to more people than those from bone marrow. More matches are possible when a cord blood transplant is used than when a bone marrow transplant is used. In addition, the stem cells in cord blood are less likely to cause rejection than those in bone marrow.
“This reanalysis supports several previously expressed opinions that autologous [to use one’s OWN cells] banking of cord blood privately as a biological insurance for the treatment of life-threatening diseases in children and young adults is not clinically justified because the chances of ever using it are remote. The absence of published peer-reviewed evidence raises the serious ethical concern of a failure to inform prospective parents about the lack of future benefit for autologous cord banking … Attempts to justify this [commercial cord blood banking] are based on the success of unrelated public domain cord banking and allogeneic [using someone ELSE’S cells] cord blood transplantation, and not on the use of autologous [the person’s OWN cells] cord transplantation, the efficacy of which remains unproven”.
Our work has focused on human umbilical cord matrix (UCM) cells. There are cells isolated in large numbers from the Wharton’s jelly of human cords (25–28). Two other research labs have published on the isolation and characterization of cells from the Wharton’s jelly: Dr. Davies’ lab at the University of Toronto (29) and Dr. Y. S. Fu at the National Yang-Ming University, Taipei (30–32). All three groups reported that UCM cells are MSC-like cells and are robust. These cells can be isolated easily, frozen/thawed, clonally expanded, engineered to express exogenous proteins, and extensively expanded in culture. Human UCM cells express a marker of neural precursors, nestin, without exposure to differentiation signals (26,28,30). In response to differentiation signals, human UCM cells can differentiate to catecholaminergic neurons, expressing tyrosine hydroxylase TH (28,30,31). Human UCM cells meet the basic criteria established for MSCs described previously (29,32). Similarly, MSC-like cells are derived from other umbilical cord tissues, e.g., umbilical vein sub-endothelium, umbilical cord blood, amnion, placenta, and amniotic fluid (Table 1).
Stem cells are the next frontier in medicine. Stem cells are thought to have great therapeutic and biotechnological potential. This will not only to replace damaged or dysfunctional cells, but also rescue them and/or deliver therapeutic proteins after they have been engineered to do so. Currently, ethical and scientific issues surround both embryonic and fetal stem cells and hinder their widespread implementation. In contrast, stem cells recovered postnatally from the umbilical cord, including the umbilical cord blood cells, amnion/placenta, umbilical cord vein, or umbilical cord matrix cells, are a readily available and inexpensive source of cells that are capable of forming many different cell types (i.e., they are “multipotent”). This review will focus on the umbilical cord-derived stem cells and compare those cells with adult bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells.
Since the first successful sibling-to-sibling cord-blood stem-cell transplant was performed in 1988 to treat a genetic disorder called Fanconi’s anemia, more than 20 private banks have opened. And they seem to have the address of every expectant couple in America — whose mailboxes bulge with brochures encouraging them to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Cord-blood banking is like insurance to protect your family against unforeseeable events,” says Stephen Grant, cofounder and senior vice president of Cord Blood Registry, a large California-based private bank. “You do it out of love and responsibility for your family. Sure, you hope you’ll never have to use the blood, but if you do, it’ll be there.”
Bone marrow is tissue located in the center of your bones, making healthy blood cells that strengthen your immune system and fight off outside infections. A large amount of cells are located in bone marrow, and doctors frequently use hip bone marrow for most transplants, since the stem cells in this area are the most plentiful.
The range of diseases that doctors can treat with cord blood is vast. More than 80 diseases are currently known to respond to cord blood stem cells transplants and, as more are studied and tested, that number is sure to grow.
Participating mothers will give a sample of blood (about four teaspoons), which will be tested for certain infections, including hepatitis and HIV. This is done to reduce the chances of passing on an infectious disease through the transplantation of the cord blood unit. This blood sample can be obtained at the hospital when the nurse is starting your IV or collecting routine blood samples for your physician.
But considering the average cost of a new car or top-of-the-line stroller these days, many expectant parents feel it’s not an unreasonable price to pay to give their child the best chance in life. “Ultimately, my conscience wouldn’t let me not do it,” says Merilee Kern, of San Diego. “We could afford it, and the blood could someday save my daughter.”
In addition to the stem cells, researchers are discovering specific uses for the other types of cells in the treatment of certain conditions. Cord blood Treg cells hold potential for preventing graft-versus-host disease in stem cell transplantations and ameliorating the effects of autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Cord blood natural killer cells also hold future potential. These cells have been programmed to target specific cancers and tumors in clinical trials. This could make them exceptionally strong candidates for chronic or treatment-resistant cases of cancer.
Donating cord blood to a public bank adds to the supply and can potentially help others. Donating to a public bank is especially important for ethnic minorities, who are not well represented in cord blood banks. Public cord blood donation increases the chance of all groups finding a match.
Each cord blood bank has different directions for returning the consent form. Some banks may ask you to mail the consent form along with the health history forms or to bring the original consent form with you to the hospital. Other banks may have you finish the form at the hospital. Follow the directions from your public cord blood bank.
ES cells are pluripotent, and similar to iPS cells, but come from an embryo. However, this kills the fertilized baby inside the embryo. This type of cell also has a high chance for graft-versus-host disease, when transplanted cells attack the patient’s body.
 Ian Thornley, Mary Eapen, Lillian Sung, Stephanie J. Lee, Stella M. Davies and Steven Joffe, “Private cord blood banking: experiences and views of pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation physicians,” Pediatrics 123 (2009): 1011-1017.
If you’re reading this, you may likely also agree that the cord blood should be saved, leaving only a decision whether to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank or to preserve it for your baby’s and other family members’ potential future use. Parents should be fully informed of how each options compares prior to making a final decision.
The first cord blood banks were private cord blood banks. In fact, Cryo-Cell is the world’s first private cord blood bank. It wasn’t until later that the government realized the need to preserve cord blood for research and public welfare. As a result, 31 states have adopted a law or have a piece of pending legislation that requires or encourages OBGYNs to educate expectant parents about cord blood banking and many states now have publicly held cord blood banks. As a result, parents have the option of banking their baby’s cord blood privately for the exclusive use of the child and the rest of the family or donating the cord blood to a public bank so that it can be used in research or by any patient who is a match and in need.
If a mother meets eligibility requirements, and her baby’s cord blood is determined to be suitable for transplant, it’s stored in a public cord blood bank, and the cord blood unit is listed on the Be the Match registry. (Most blood found not suitable for transplant is used for further research.)