What Is Cord Blood Banking?
The act of collecting potentially life-saving stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta and preserving them for future use is known as cord blood banking. Stem cells are young cells that have the ability to take on the appearance of other cells.
When you have a child, there are so many things to consider. Blood from your baby’s umbilical cord is one of them (which connects the baby to the mother while in the womb).
Blood used to be thrown away at delivery, but now many parents save it for their child’s future health. Should you go ahead and do it?
What Can It Be Used For?
Stem cells abound in the umbilical cord fluid. They can be used to treat cancer, blood problems such as anemia, and immune system disorders that interfere with your body’s capacity to fight itself.
The fluid is simple to collect and contains 10 times the number of stem cells seen in bone marrow.
Cord blood stem cells are rarely infected and are just half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
How Do You Get It?
After the birth, the doctor clips the umbilical cord in two locations, about 10 inches apart, and cuts the cord, separating mother and baby, if you want the blood saved.
Then they inject a needle into the cord and collect at least 40 milliliters of blood. The blood is collected in a bag and transported to a lab or cord blood bank for testing and storage. The procedure takes only a few minutes and is completely painless for both mother and baby.
The cord blood bank may also send tubes for the mother’s blood to be drawn. If this is the case, the banking package will include instructions as well as blood collection tubes.
Where Is It stored?
There are three options:
For storage, public cord banks do not charge anything. Any donation given will be made available to anyone in need. The cord blood donation may also be used for research by the bank.
The donated blood will be stored in private (commercial) cord banks for usage by the donor and family members alone. They can be quite costly. These banks charge a processing fee as well as an annual storage cost.
Cord blood banking is neither recommended nor discouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). However, it, like the AAP and the AMA, warns parents of private cord blood banking. This is why:
Private cord blood banks have substantial collection and storage costs.
There may be less expensive alternatives to these effective treatments.
Your child’s chances of receiving cord blood from a private bank are exceedingly slim.
Because the genetic abnormalities that cause sickle cell disease and thalassemia are present in the baby’s cord blood, a stem cell transplant using the individual’s own cord blood (known as an autologous transplant) cannot be utilized to treat these disorders.
Other disorders that can be treated with a stem cell transplant, such as leukemia, may be present in the cord blood of a newborn.
Because of these limitations and the rarity of disorders that can be treated with a stem cell transplant, only around 400 autologous cord blood transplants have been performed in the United States in the last two decades. Unrelated donor cord blood transplants, on the other hand, have been conducted in excess of 60,000 times around the world.
In summary, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association both advise against retaining cord blood as a sort of “biological insurance,” claiming that the advantages are insufficient to warrant the expenditures.
Is there any circumstance in which private cord blood banking makes sense? If they don’t know their child’s medical history — for example, if a parent was adopted or the child was conceived with a sperm or egg donor — some parents prefer to bank their child’s blood.
Direct-donation banks are a hybrid of public and private financial institutions. They keep cord blood on hand for public consumption. They do, however, accept gifts designated for families. There is no payment.
Should You Bank Your Baby’s Cord Blood?
Who you ask is the determining factor. Despite the fact that commercial cord blood banks advertise their services as “biological insurance” against future disorders, the blood is rarely used. According to one study, a child’s cord blood is used between 1 in 400 and 1 in 200,000 times during their lifetime.
Even if the person develops an illness later, the preserved blood cannot always be used because if the condition is caused by a genetic mutation, it will also be present in the stem cells. According to current study, preserved blood may only be useful for 15 years.
If you have twins, there are a few more things to consider. If one of your twins is born with a genetic abnormality or develops childhood leukemia, the cord blood will very certainly retain the same code that created the problem to begin with. It can’t be used to treat either the twins or anyone else.
As long as the two twins are a good match, cord blood cells from one healthy twin can be used to treat the other twin or another sick child.
However, when the two children’s genetic makeups are somewhat different, this benefit is magnified. If your twins are identical (monozygotic), this indicates they will be poor blood donors for each other.
If your twins are fraternal (dizygotic), they have the same chance of being a good donor for the other twin as any other sibling. Cord blood could be utilized to treat another sick sibling, whether the twins are identical or fraternal.
Cord blood preservation is not recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the organizations, private banks should only be utilized when a sibling has a medical issue that could benefit from stem cells.
If an infant has a complete sibling with a cancer or genetic illness that can be treated with cord blood transplantation, the AAP recommends cord blood banking. These are some of the conditions:
- Immune deficiencies, such as severe combined immune deficiency (SCID)
- Lymphoma (Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s)
- Aplastic anemia
- Sickle cell anemia
- Krabbe’s disease
- Other rare diseases
Even yet, there’s only a 25% chance that a brother or sister will be a perfect genetic match. As a result, a sibling may need a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from a stranger.
If there is a family history of cancer or genetic disorders that could benefit from cord blood stem cells, the AMA recommends considering private cord blood banking. However, keep in mind that 70% of people must go beyond their family for an appropriate match for any type of transplant.
Families are encouraged to help others by donating stem cells to a public bank.
If you do decide to bank your baby’s cord blood, bear in mind that it’s better not to make the decision at the last minute. So that nothing is left to chance, you should communicate with the bank before your kid is born.
What the Future Holds
Nobody knows how stem cells will be employed in the future, but researchers want to use them to cure a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart failure, and spinal cord damage.
It’s possible that keeping your child’s cord blood cells today will help fight these disorders in the future. For the time being, these treatments are just that: hypotheses. It’s also unclear if stem cells from cord blood will be effective in these possible treatments, as compared to stem cells from other sources.