A cord blood bank may be private (i.e. the blood is stored for and the costs paid by donor families) or public (i.e. stored and made available for use by unrelated donors). While public cord blood banking is widely supported, private cord banking is controversial in both the medical and parenting community. Although umbilical cord blood is well-recognized to be useful for treating hematopoietic and genetic disorders, some controversy surrounds the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood by private banks for the baby’s use. Only a small percentage of babies (estimated at between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000) ever use the umbilical cord blood that is stored. The American Academy of Pediatrics 2007 Policy Statement on Cord Blood Banking stated: “Physicians should be aware of the unsubstantiated claims of private cord blood banks made to future parents that promise to insure infants or family members against serious illnesses in the future by use of the stem cells contained in cord blood.” and “private storage of cord blood as ‘biological insurance’ is unwise” unless there is a family member with a current or potential need to undergo a stem cell transplantation. The American Academy of Pediatrics also notes that the odds of using a person’s own cord blood is 1 in 200,000 while the Institute of Medicine says that only 14 such procedures have ever been performed.
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.
Umbilical cords have traditionally been viewed as disposable biological by-product. Cord blood, however, is rich in multi-potent hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Recent medical advances have indicated that these stem cells found in cord blood can be used to treat the same disorders as the hematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow and in the bloodstream but without some of the disadvantages of these types of transplants. Cord blood is currently used to treat approximately 70 diseases including leukemias, lymphomas, anemias, and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). Six thousand patients worldwide have been treated with cord blood stem cell transplants, although the FDA considers the procedure to be experimental. These multipotent stem cells also show promise for the treatment of a variety of diseases and disorders other than those affecting the blood.
The mother signs an informed consent which gives a “public” cord blood bank permission to collect the cord blood after birth and to list it on a database that can be searched by doctors on behalf of patients. The cord blood is listed purely by its genetic type, with no information about the identity of the donor. In the United States, Be The Match maintains a national network of public cord blood banks and registered cord blood donations. However, all the donation registries around the world cooperate with each other, so that a patient who one day benefits from your child’s cord blood may come from anywhere. It is truly a gift to the benefit of humankind.
The syringe or bag should be pre-labeled with a unique number that identifies your baby. Cord blood may only be collected during the first 15 minutes following the birth and should be processed by the laboratory within 48 hours of collection.
CBR is a proud media partner of @MarchForBabies, as we join @MarchofDimes in the fight for the #health of all #moms and #babies. Join us at Fort Mason in San Francisco on April 28th and march with us, because every baby deserves the best possible start. marchforbabies.org
Canadian Blood Services acknowledges the funding of provincial, territorial and federal governments. The views expressed in this document are those of Canadian Blood Services and do not necessarily reflect those of governments.
Both public and family cord blood banks must register with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and since Oct. 2011 public banks also need to apply for an FDA license. All cord blood banks are required by federal law to test the blood of the mother for infectious diseases. At public banks the screening is usually more extensive, similar to the tests performed when you donate blood. The typical expense to a public bank is $150 per unit.
Collected cord blood is cryopreserved and then stored in a cord blood bank for future transplantation. Cord blood collection is typically depleted of red blood cells before cryopreservation to ensure high rates of stem cell recovery.
Stem Cell Storage is not included in their price. Viacord and Cord Blood Registry both charge for annual storage. This means that when you pay for your initial cord blood and/or cord tissue storage you will also have to pay annually for storage.
Some public banks offer sibling-directed donation programs where you can donate cord blood and designate it for use by your baby’s full sibling if that sibling has been diagnosed with a disease for which a cord blood transplant is considered standard treatment.
One oft cited argument against cord blood banking is that it is not known how long these cells can remain viable in storage. While it is not known if cells taken from an individual as an infant will be beneficial to them as an adult, units stored for up to 10 years have been transplanted successfully. This indicates that there is no reason to suggest serious deterioration in the quality of cord blood units stored for longer periods of time.
Lead image of baby’s umbilical cord from Wikimedia Commons. Possible human blood stem cell image by Rajeev Gupta and George Chennell. Remaining images of blood sample bags and red blood cells from Wellcome Images.
The evolution of stem cell therapies has paved the way for further research being conducted through FDA-regulated clinical trials to uncover their potential in regenerative medicine applications. Cord Blood Registry is the first family newborn stem cell company to partner with leading research institutions to establish FDA-regulated clinical trials exploring the potential regenerative ability of cord blood stem cells to help treat conditions that have no cure today, including: acquired hearing loss, autism, cerebral palsy, and pediatric stroke. In fact, 73% of the stem cell units released by CBR have been used for experimental regenerative therapies – more than any other family cord blood bank in the world.
^ a b Thornley, I; et al. (March 2009). “Private cord blood banking: experiences and views of pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation physicians”. Pediatrics. 123 (3): 1011–7. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-0436. PMC 3120215 . PMID 19255033.
Becoming a parent is a life-changing moment full of promise, joy and a natural share of anxiety. For parents of a sick child, those worries are more intense – especially if that child needs a stem cell transplant to survive. You have the power to Give Life to patients in Canada and around the world.
nbiased and factual information. The Foundation educates parents, health professionals and the general public about the need to preserve this valuable medical resource while providing information on both public cord blood donation programs and private family cord blood banks worldwide. Learn more about our global community.
A limitation of cord blood is that it contains fewer HSCs than a bone marrow donation does, meaning adult patients often require two volumes of cord blood for treatments. Researchers are studying ways to expand the number of HSCs from cord blood in labs so that a single cord blood donation could supply enough cells for one or more HSC transplants.
The baby’s cord blood will be processed and stored in a laboratory facility, often referred to as a blood bank. The cord blood should be processed and stored in a facility that is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) for the purpose of handling stem cells.
Certainly, there are plenty of doctors who have high hopes for stem-cell advances and advise patients to consider cord-blood banking. When private banks first started sending him informational packets, Jordan Perlow, MD, a maternal-fetal specialist in Phoenix, assumed they were just trying to profit from parents’ anxieties. But after attending medical conferences and scrutinizing studies about developments in stem-cell therapies, Dr. Perlow now encourages his patients to privately bank if they can afford it because he’s convinced that it might save their child’s life or the life of another family member. “If private banking had been available when my children were born, I would have done it,” he says.
To save money, public banks will not even process a cord blood donation unless they know in advance that they are going to keep it. When the collection first arrives at the lab, it is passed through a cell counting machine. Only collections that have at least 900 million nucleated cells are kept. As a result, over 60%-80% of cord blood donations are discarded. The public bank must absorb the expense of the collection kit and delivery charges for discarded blood; typically $100 per unit.
Another way scientists are working with stem cells is through expansion technologies that spur replication of the cord blood stem cells. If proven effective and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these expansion technologies will allow scientists to culture many stem cells from a small sample. This could provide doctors and researchers with enough stem cells to treat multiple family members with one cord blood collection or provide the baby with multiple treatments over time. To better prepare for the day when these expansion technologies are more easily accessible, some cord blood banks have begun to separate their cord blood collections into separate compartments, which can easily be detached from the rest of the collection and used independently. You can learn more about Cryo-Cell’s five-chambered storage bag here.
Along with cord blood, Wharton’s jelly and the cord lining have been explored as sources for mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), and as of 2015 had been studied in vitro, in animal models, and in early stage clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases, as well as neurological deficits, liver diseases, immune system diseases, diabetes, lung injury, kidney injury, and leukemia.
However, cord blood transplants also have limitations. Treatment of adults with cord blood typically requires two units of cord blood to treat one adult. Clinical trials using “double cord blood transplantation” for adults have demonstrated outcomes similar to use of other sources of HSCs, such as bone marrow or mobilized peripheral blood. Current studies are being done to expand a single cord blood unit for use in adults. Cord blood can also only be used to treat blood diseases. No therapies for non-blood-related diseases have yet been developed using HSCs from either cord blood or adult bone marrow.
^ Caseiro, AR; Pereira, T; Ivanova, G; Luís, AL; Maurício, AC (2016). “Neuromuscular Regeneration: Perspective on the Application of Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Their Secretion Products”. Stem Cells International. 2016: 9756973. doi:10.1155/2016/9756973. PMC 4736584 . PMID 26880998.
Cord blood collection is a completely painless procedure that does not interfere with the birth or with mother-and-child bonding following the delivery. There is no risk to either the mother or baby. Cord blood collection rarely requires Blood Center staff to be present during the baby’s delivery. There is no cost to you for donating.
If a sibling of a child whose cord blood you banked needs a transplant, then your chances of a match will be far higher than turning to the public. However, the safest bet is to bank the cord blood of all your children, safeguarding them against a number of diseases and ensuring a genetic match if necessary.
We believe that every family should have the opportunity to preserve their baby’s newborn stem cells. That’s why CBR offers transparent costs of cord blood banking, and various payment options to fit this important step into almost every family budget.
Lack of awareness is the #1 reason why cord blood is most often thrown away. For most pregnant mothers, their doctor does not even mention the topic. If a parent wants to save cord blood, they must be pro-active.
CORD:USE is directed by leading doctors in cord blood transplantation. Public donations collected by CORD:USE are sent to the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, a FACT-accredited laboratory under the direction of Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg.
“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”.
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.”
As cord blood is inter-related to cord blood banking, it is often a catch-all term used for the various cells that are stored. It may be surprising for some parents to learn that stored cord blood contains little of what people think of as “blood,” as the red blood cells (RBCs) can actually be detrimental to a cord blood treatment. (As we’ll discuss later, one of the chief goals of cord blood processing is to greatly reduce the volume of red blood cells in any cord blood collection.)
Stem cells are able to transform into other types of cells in the body to create new growth and development. They are also the building blocks of the immune system. The transformation of these cells provides doctors with a way to treat leukemia and some inherited health disorders.
People who are in need of a transplant are more likely to find a match from a donor of the same ethnic descent. There are fewer racial minorities in the national registries, so finding a match can be more difficult.5
Most stored cord blood is discarded. At public cord blood banks, a unit of stored cord blood has a greater chance of being used to help a sick child or used toward stem cell research. Private cord blood banks, on the other hand, eventually throw away blood that a family no longer wants to store or use.