In New Zealand, a hopeful couple are participating in a study that will use one of their son’s cord blood stem cells to research treatment for another son’s cystic fibrosis. In Chicago, people are using their sibling’s stem cells to successfully treat sickle cell disease. And countless other families have banked their second child’s cord blood after their first child was diagnosed with leukemia. Many of those children are alive and well today thanks to their sibling’s stem cells. Since the first successful cord blood stem cell transplant on a sibling in 1988, over 30,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide.
If you’re thinking about banking your baby’s cord blood stem cells, one question you’ve probably considered is whether to choose a private or public cord blood bank. As with any major decision in your life, it pays to do your research so you can make the best choice for your family about the future of your baby’s cord blood.
Cord blood is also being studied as a substitute for normal blood transfusions in the developing world. More research is necessary prior to the generalized utilization of cord blood transfusion.
There are several cord blood banks that are accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks. Most offer information on cord blood banking and provide private cord blood banking services. With a little research, you should be able to locate a credible cord blood bank online.
Banking of stem cells from cord blood began in 1994 with the foundation of the New York Blood Centre Cord Blood Bank. The field of umbilical cord blood storage has matured considerably over the last two decades. We continue to learn more about the long-term effects of cryo-preservation on the cells, which has resulted in increased storage times.
For these and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and many physicians do not recommend private cord blood banking except as “directed donations” in cases where a family member already has a current need or a very high potential risk of needing a bone marrow transplant. In all other cases, the AAP has declared the use of cord blood as “biological insurance” to be “unwise.” [Read the AAP’s news release at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/archives/julcord.htm ]
The Medical Letter On Drugs and Therapeutics also recently addressed aspects of public and private cord blood banks, asking the question: “Does Private Banking Make Sense?” After citing various statistics on the actual uses of privately stored cord blood, they concluded that: “At the present time, private storage of umbilical cord blood is unlikely to be worthwhile. Parents should be encouraged to contribute, when they can, to public cord blood banks instead.” [Access The Medical Letter at www.medicalletter.org].
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.)
Are public banks and family banks the same, except for who may use the cord blood and the cost to the parents? No. Public banks are subject to much higher regulatory requirements, and compliance with regulations carries costs. At a family bank you pay the bank enough to cover the cost of storing your baby’s cord blood, plus they make a profit. When you donate to a public bank, it costs you nothing, but the bank pays more on processing each blood collection than at a family bank. Let’s look at the steps that take place in the laboratory.
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.
Stem cell transplant using an individual’s own cord blood (called an autologous transplant) cannot be used for genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, because the genetic mutations which cause these disorders are present in the baby’s cord blood. Other diseases that are treated with stem cell transplant, such as leukemia, may also already be present in a baby’s cord blood.
Tissue typed and listed on the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®. (The registry is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. When a patient needs a transplant, the registry is searched to find a matching marrow donor or cord blood unit.)
The therapeutic potential of stem cells from the umbilical cord is vast. Cord blood is already being used in the treatment of nearly 80 life-threatening diseases2, and researchers continue to explore it’s potential. Duke University Medical Center is currently using cord blood stem cells in a Phase II clinical trial to see if it benefits kids with Autism. The number of clinical trials using cord tissue stem cells in human patients has increased to approximately 150 since the first clinical trial in 2007. Cord tissue stem cells are also being studied for the potential use in kids with Autism – a Phase I Clinical Trial is underway.
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.
Because the body’s immune system is designed to find and get rid of what it believes to be outside contaminants, stem cells and other cells of the immune system cannot be transfused into just anyone. For stem cell transfusions of any type, the body’s immune system can mistakenly start attacking the patient’s own body. This is known as graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and is a big problem post-transplant. GvHD can be isolated and minimal, but it can also be acute, chronic and even deadly.
Medical staff at the public cord blood bank will check to see if you can donate. If you have had a disease that can be given to another person through blood-forming cells, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV (the AIDS virus), you will likely not be able to donate. However, other medical reasons may still allow you to donate, for example, hepatitis A or diabetes only during your pregnancy (gestational diabetes). The staff at the public cord blood bank will tell you.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) neither recommends nor advises against cord blood banking. But along with the AAP and AMA, it cautions parents about private cord blood banking. Here’s why:
After birth, your baby no longer needs the umbilical cord or placenta. But the blood that remains could be a lifesaver for a patient who needs it, including a member of your own family. That’s because this blood is rich with blood-forming stem cells. As with bone marrow transplants, these cells can be transplanted and help save the lives of patients with leukemia or other life-threatening diseases.
Once it arrives at the storage facility, the cord blood will be processed and placed in storage. The cord blood will either be completely immersed in liquid nitrogen or it will be stored in nitrogen vapor.
Experts believe that umbilical cord blood is an important source of blood stem cells and expect that its full potential for treatment of blood disorders is yet to be revealed. Other types of stem cell such as induced pluripotent stem cells may prove to be better suited to treating non-blood-related diseases, but this question can only be answered by further research.
The umbilical cord blood contains haematopoietic stem cells – similar to those found in the bone marrow – and which can be used to generate red blood cells and cells of the immune system. Cord blood stem cells are currently used to treat a range of blood disorders and immune system conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases. These stem cells are used largely in the treatment of children but have also started being used in adults following chemotherapy treatment.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2009 issue of Dignitas, the Center’s quarterly publication. Subscriptions to Dignitas are available to CBHD Members. To learn more about the benefits of becoming a member click here.
Donating cord blood to a public cord blood bank involves talking with your doctor or midwife about your decision to donate and then calling a cord blood bank (if donation can be done at your hospital). Upon arriving at the hospital, tell the labor and delivery nurse that you are donating umbilical cord blood.
When it comes to cord blood banking, expectant parents have three options: (1) They can privately store their cord blood for their family, (2) They can take the public option and donate their cord blood for other families, or (3) They can do nothing, at which point the medical facility must dispose of the cord blood as medical waste. At Cryo-Cell International, we believe cord blood should not be discarded. Many states agree with our basic sentiment and have passed laws or guidelines for physicians to use when discussing private and public banking options with expectant parents.
There are no health risks related to cord blood collection. Cord blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord after it has been cut, thus preventing any pain, discomfort, or harm. This process is completely safe.
Umbilical cord blood can save lives. Cord blood is rich in stem cells that can morph into all sorts of blood cells, which can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. There are a few ways for transplant patients to get blood cells (umbilical and placenta, bone marrow, peripheral/circulation), but cord blood is easier to match with patients, and because it is gathered during birth from the umbilical cord, it’s a painless procedure.
Ironically, some private banks also hope to benefit from this new legislation. “We have the capabilities and capacity to collect and store donated as well as private units,” says Cryo-Cell’s Maass. In fact, because the bill recommends that pregnant women be informed of all of their cord-blood options, it’s likely that donations to both public and private banks will increase.
Similar to transplantation, the main disadvantage is the limited number of cells that can be procured from a single umbilical cord. Different ways of growing and multiplying HSCs in culture are currently being investigated. Once this barrier is overcome, HSCs could be used to create “universal donor” stem cells as well as specific types of red or white blood cells. Immunologic rejection is a possibility, as with any stem cell transplant. HSCs that are genetically modified are susceptible to cancerous formation and may not migrate (home) to the appropriate tissue and actively divide. The longevity of cord blood HSCs is also unknown.
“One of the wonderful things about cord blood is that unlike bone marrow, you don’t always need a perfect match in order for it to work,” says Dr. Kurtzberg, who performed the first unrelated cord-blood transplant in the U.S. And it was a public donation that ultimately saved Anthony Dones. Within a week of starting a search, the National Cord Blood Program, a public bank operated by the New York Blood Center, found a “close enough” match. Had the now-3-year-old been forced to rely on a bone-marrow match, he might still be waiting.
The term “cord blood” is used for the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and the placenta after the birth of a baby. Cord Blood contains stem cells that can grow into blood and immune system cells, as well as other types of cells. Today cord blood is often used as a substitute for bone marrow in stem cell transplants. There are over 80 diseases treated this way, including cancers, blood disorders, genetic and metabolic diseases.
Once considered medical waste, the blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby’s delivery is now known to be a rich source of stem cells similar to those in bone marrow. It’s been used in transplants to treat more than 70 different diseases including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle-cell disease, and some metabolic disorders. Unlike with marrow, which is obtained through a painful medical procedure and replenished by the body, there’s only one chance to collect this seemingly magical elixir: immediately after a baby’s birth.
It depends on who you ask. Although commercial cord blood banks often bill their services as “biological insurance” against future diseases, the blood doesn’t often get used. One study says the chance that a child will use their cord blood over their lifetime is between 1 in 400 and 1 in 200,000.
CBR Cord Blood Education Specialists are available 7 days a week (Monday – Friday 6 AM – 9 PM PST and Saturday – Sunday 6 AM – 4 PM PST) to respond to consumer inquiries. In addition, consumers may request to schedule a call with a CBR Cord Blood Education Specialist at a specific date and time.
While donating cord blood is honorable, there is a lot people do not know about the public option. Most public cord blood banks have a limited number of collection sites, and they only retain a small number of collections because of volume and other criteria that must be met. Once cord blood is donated, it is highly unlikely that the donation can ever be attained by the donor or his or her family if the need arises. In addition, it may be hard to find another viable match from what is publically available. While donating is free, retreiving a cord blood sample from a public cord blood bank is not and pales in comparison to the overall cost of privately banking cord blood. These are just some of the reasons why privately banking cord blood may be a better option for some families.
Companies throughout Europe also offer commercial (private) banking of umbilical cord blood. A baby’s cord blood is stored in case they or a family member develop a condition that could be treated by a cord blood transplant. Typically, companies charge an upfront collection fee plus an annual storage fee.
Generally speaking, public cord blood banks collect, process and store your donated cord blood for free. The cord blood you donate to a public bank may be used for transplants or for research purposes, so you may not be able to access your own cord blood. View a list of public cord blood banks in North America.
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