A child might be able to be treated with the cord blood of a healthy sibling (or a match from a public bank). OK In other words, parents who harvest the cord blood of one child with no illness may be able to use it for another child who does have such an illness. There is growing evidence that this does not hold true for some injuries—such as spinal injuries—that are due to accident, not illness.
Research and technology continue to advance the possibilities, so the list of conditions treatable with cord blood continues to grow.
Cord blood is collected by a woman's obstetrician or midwife just after the placenta is delivered. The cord is cleaned, and the blood is collected in a bag. The whole process takes about 5 minutes. A courier then picks up the blood and delivers it to the bank, where the blood is prepared and stored. Should the stem cells be needed by a family later, the cells are tested and transported to the designated hospital. Some banks charge a retrieval fee, which may be covered by insurance.
What Doctors are Saying: An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement from 1999 encourages philanthropic donation and offers preliminary guidelines to doctors whose patients are interested in storing their newborn's cord blood. Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., director of the The Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Duke University, says in light of rapid advancement in this field, the AAP is reviewing and updating its statement.
“I think the general consensus in the transplant community is that healthy children have a low probability of needing their own cord blood in childhood, but use of the cord blood later in adulthood is still uncharted territory,” Kurtzberg says. Naturally, obstetricians get many questions about the issue now, and according to Kurtzberg, one of the goals is to help establish official collection guidelines.
So... Should You Bank? As with any health decision regarding your baby, you should thoroughly research your choices. Many families are considering private blood banks to ensure that they are able to retrieve their own child’s blood, if need be. A cost-free alternative is to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank.
"I think it's really up to the individual whether they want to save their own child's cord blood or not," says Paul R. Sanberg, D.Sc., Ph.D., director of the Center for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida Medical School. "But if you don't save it, I think it should be donated to a cord-blood bank and used for research or clinical trials." Sanberg has been researching applications with cord-blood stem cells for three years and says his lab is just a few years away from being able to use stem cells in treating strokes, Lou Gehrig's disease and other brain and spinal cord injuries.
“If more people would donate their newborn’s cord blood,” he says, “more people who can’t store their own would have access to the benefits of future cord blood-based therapies.”