Storing cold blood for future use doesn’t come without a price. Whether it is the public bank that collects and stores the blood or it is a family that wants to bank the cord blood in a private bank, there is a damn cost to pay. Probably, you would want to know why it is very expensive to bank cord blood and whether for the family it is an insurance or reassurance. For the public banks, it provides access to the much needed stem cells that can treat different kinds of diseases that may need stem cell transplants.1
Cord Blood Banking Options
When you expect to have a baby, your doctor may ask you whether you would want to consider banking the newborn’s umbilical cord blood. This is a big question, yet it’s a decision that may come with a costly price to meet. Banking cord blood isn’t cheap so you should make an informed choice. Depending on your family situation, you may go with private cord blood banks where you pay something like $1500 to around $2,500 in addition to yearly storage fees that can amount to $175 per year.2
Another option you may think of is a public cord bank. This gives you an opportunity to donate cord blood but you may not have access to it in future. You donate for free so the cord bank meets the cost of processing, preserving, and storing expenses.
If none of the two options works for you, you may just take it as a medical waste and the cord blood is discarded. But today, cord blood is much needed than ever, and it would sound better if you donate it for free to be banked in private banks because it can help somebody else someday. You will have an opportunity to save life should it be used to treat a patient.
Public vs. Family Banks
The difference in family and public banks isn’t just about the cost element and who uses the cord blood, but there are other elements that come into play. Public banks are subjected to higher regulatory frameworks and have to meet stringent regulations and compliance. These all come with costs. Family banks will charge you fees that meet the cost of collecting and storing cord blood and their profit. A public bank won’t charge you for donating cord blood, but it will meet the cost, which may be higher than that met by private or family banks.
The Cost of Cord Blood Banking
The cost involved in cord blood banking can be captured in different areas. There is the registration cost as stipulated by the FDA and there is a license to be obtained that is granted by the FDA. Other costs are as follows:2
- Screening for a cord blood which is usually done to the mother and not the baby. It attracts about $150 for a single unit. This screening checks for infectious diseases.
- The processing of the blood to get the component of blood that holds stem cells costs about $250 to $300 for every single unit. In the processing and cryopreserving, the cells are prevented from bursting when they are frozen and that’s why a cryoprotectant is used.
- Before the cells are frozen, they have to undergo quality testing that checks to see if they test positive for CD34. This is a marker used to determine the amount of blood-forming cells present in the specimen. CD34 marker is a kind of protein. The quality testing costs around $150 to 200 for a single unit.
- Another test conducted is to find out the amount of nucleated cells and this is performed before and after cord blood processing to help find out the rate of cell recovery. This test costs about $35 a unit.
- There is a test to check for specimen contamination. This looks to ensure there is no fungal or bacterial infection and it goes for about $75 for a single unit.
- A culture test known as CFU assay is done to see if the specimen of the cord blood cells is able to grow new cells. This test goes for about $200 to $250 for a single unit.
Now you can see why it is very costly to collect, test, process, and store cord blood. After the processing and tests are done, the other step involves freezing the stem cells in cryogenic nitrogen freezers. This means the stem cells are in a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius. They are stored in that temperature until they are needed for use.
A very important thing to understand here is that public banks have to cut back on the huge cost by first not processing cord blood units until it is determined that they comprise the required nucleated cells, that’s about 900 million cells. The problem is that many of these units don’t meet that count, and that’s why up to 80 percent of the units are discarded. This happens after they have been transported to the public cord bank from the collection centers, so there is a typical transport cost of about $100 for every unit, which is just lost anyway because 80 percent of the specimens don’t fit the cell requirements.2
HLA typing is a test conducted to match donors and patients for cord blood transplants and it costs about $75 to $125 for every single unit. Public cord banks have to pay for that amount.
Usually, private banks may delay the HLA typing until they are certain that a family member will use the blood for treatment. This is to lower the cost and ensure they don’t spend money on a specimen that may not be used.2
It is not clearly known whether private banks can follow the stringent processes that are needed to make sure the cord blood is viable, safe, and usable after several years. Some tests and processes are just so expensive and families should be careful when they choose a private cord blood bank. The financial status of the cord bank, its innovations including storage equipment, and the standards and level of expertise are things to be thoroughly looked at. Otherwise, you may have your cord blood unit stored inappropriately meaning when you come to access it for treatment, it is not even useful, yet you incurred the hefty cost.
Keywords: stem cells; umbilical cord blood; donate cord blood; donating cord blood; cord blood banking; stem cells; processing cord blood; private cord blood bank
- The Cord Blood Controversy. https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-baby/cord-blood-banking/the-cord-blood-controversy/
- Why is Cord Blood Banking so Expensive? https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/news/why-cord-blood-banking-so-expensive
- Cord Blood Banking Cost. https://www.cordbloodbank.com/cord-blood-banking-cost/