The primary benefit to cord blood banking is that it provides a type of medical insurance. This insurance is not from a financial perspective, but rather takes the form of having the necessary medical building blocks available should they be needed in the event of certain illnesses and diseases. Those medical building blocks are the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood.
In the past years, there have been dramatic medical advances in the arena of stem cell research, and more discoveries are announced practically every month. Many doctors and researchers see great potential in the use of stem cells to reverse or cure many severe, life-threatening diseases. With these facts in mind, many parents are choosing to preserve the stems cells found in umbilical cord blood after birth. There are no health risks in doing so. The primary risk is that the $100 yearly fee for storage will be wasted in the event that the stem cells are never needed.
More and more parents are taking notice of the advances in stem cell research. Here are some highlights:
Transplant science is constantly improving. Several companies are bringing to market methods of “expanding” the stem cell population in the laboratory, and these methods are starting to be applied in clinical trials.
The evolution from pluripotent stem cells down to blood stem cells is currently poorly understood. The latest indication is that, under the right conditions, stem cells in cord blood can be teased to grow into other types of tissue besides blood. This would open up an entirely new realm of potential treatment through the use of stem cells.
As a result of these advances, it is not unreasonable to hope that cord blood may eventually be used to treat a wider variety of auto-immune and degenerative diseases than is currently being done. If so, (and there are solid indications by researchers that this indeed is the case), it makes perfect sense to consider private cord blood banking.
The arguments in favor of private banking are several:
1. As today’s children grow up and some of them develop cancer as adults, autologous (self) cord blood transplants will become more commonly used. Pediatric cancers and adult cancers are completely different diseases at the cellular level (to learn more about cancer visit the website of the National Cancer Institute). While pediatric cancer patients rarely receive autologous transplants, among adult cancer patients the autologous transplants are more common than transplants from donors.
2. Recent news reports constantly announce new medical advances using stem cells. Future applications will probably include tissue repair to various organs of the body.
3. Families should consider is whether the odds given for the “average baby” apply to them. Some families do have a higher predisposition to cancer and immune disorders and would be far more likely to benefit from cord blood banking than the statistics indicate.
4. If your family, especially your children, are of mixed ethnic background, it may be impossible to find an adult bone marrow donor who is a perfect match. In that event, cord blood from even a partially matched sibling would be invaluable if a stem cell transplant is necessary.