Cord blood is rich in stem cells, the building blocks that produce blood — and the same stem cells that make up the bone-marrow transplants that help many people survive certain cancers and other diseases. But cord blood has some advantages: These younger stem cells are more easily transplanted into unrelated people than bone marrow is, and they can be thawed at a moment’s notice, much easier than searching out a bone-marrow donor.
With that being said, once your child is born you can choose to bank their cord blood for future use. The cost is quite high, but the benefits to your family down the road could be priceless.
The American Government is beginning to set up the first national cord-blood banking system, aiming to prevent some 12,000 deaths a year — if public banks can compete with marketing-savvy private companies that now house the bulk of the world’s preserved cord blood.
They are hoping for parents, who will not be banking their childs cord blood for future family use, to donate the blood to be used for others that are in need of the cells.
“Unless you have a family member with cancer, it’s unlikely you would ever need it, and you would be doing a service to humanity to donate it.” Dr. Elizabeth Shpall of the public M.D. Anderson Cord Blood Bank
Today, about 50,000 cord blood donations are stored in more than 20 public banks around the country. The new National Cord Blood Inventory aims to triple that number, enough that virtually anyone who needs stem cell treatment could find a match — especially minority patients who today seldom can as most bone marrow donors are white.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you should only consider personally banking your child’s blood if an older sibling has cancer or certain genetic diseases that cord blood is proven to treat.
Private banks vehemently disagree, arguing that as scientists learn more about stem cells, the blood could create personalized treatments for heart disease or other more common killers.
“That’s still considered very experimental,” counters Dr. Mitchell Cairo of Columbia University Medical Center, who co-authored the new guidelines.
Also, doctors don’t even know if cord blood remains usable after being stored for decades.
Still, last month Illinois doctors reported the first apparent success in treating a child’s leukemia with her own cord blood — something usually impossible because that blood so often carries the cancer-triggering genetic defect.
About 11 states have recently passed legislation to try to increase the information that expectant parents receive about their cord blood choices: store it, donate it, or discard it.
Realistically, if you do not feel that your child will ever benefit from his/her’s cord blood, it should be donated. Sometimes doing something good for the rest of mankind feels good. There would be no risk to you or the baby, but your good deed could possibly save someone else’s life.