Genetic counseling helps provide support and information for people who have issues or are at risk of having genetic disorders. The practice features in many areas including prenatal diagnosis and testing, cancer, cardiology, cord blood banking, metabolic diseases and others1. The decision about cord blood banking doesn’t always come easy, and there may be emotions attached to it. Most parents thinking of cord blood banking may already be in fear that their child or a relative may have a serious genetic disorder or they already have it.
Genetic counselors can play a big role in helping the already distressed parents make an informed decision when it comes to cord blood banking. Genetic counselors are interested with patients that have been diagnosed with conditions treatable through the use of stem cell transplant or those that could be thinking of getting into a clinical trial or are already in the trial. These, of course, aren’t easy decisions to make.2
In stem cell transplants, family genetics have a role to play because patients with a related donor tend to fare better. Having stem cell transplants that are derived from a close relative may be more advantageous because the patient can have some tolerance to the cells of a less perfect match. There is also less graft-versus-host disease and the recipient may survive longer than if they had stem cell transplants from an unrelated donor.
Genetic counselors look into how genetics is involved in causing inherited diseases in a family. The information may be used to help families make decision about cord blood banking. There is also the aspect that some conditions inherited in families are considered genetically heterogeneous. This means they can be passed down the families in different or multiple ways. For example, you may have a particular condition where families may use stem cell transplants of relatives to treatment it, but for other families, they cannot use their relatives’ stem cells to treat the same condition. This situation arises mostly in dominantly inherited disorders or in certain chromosomal disorders like DiGeorge Syndrome.2
Although families may be told that they need to seriously consider cord blood collection and storage for private use because they have a history of having genetic diseases, there is just more than that. Without understanding how genetic markers are inherited in a family, it may not be possible to know if there is potential risk for having a genetic disease.
Genetic counselors will help patients and families to navigate the complex genetic aspect, as well as ethical and medical aspects that are related to stem cell transplants4. Families that seek the help of genetic counselors can better understand their situation and whether or not banking cord blood is ever going to be beneficial to them. The aspect of genetics, heritable conditions, and cord blood stem cell transplants is developing and new discoveries are coming up and patients or families need to know where they stand.
Keywords: cord blood banking; stem cell; stem cell transplants; cord blood collection; banking cord blood
- The Case for Stem Cell Counselors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4297874/
- A Genetic Counselor’s Perspective on Cord Blood Banking. https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/news/genetic-counselors-perspective-cord-blood-banking
- Genetic Counselors’ Knowledge And Perspectives Of Cord Blood Banking And Stem Cell Therapies. https://scholarworks.csustan.edu/bitstream/handle/011235813/785/BrummittS%20Sum2014.pdf?sequence=1
- Stem Cell Transplantation: Genetic Counselors as a Critical Part of the Process. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs40142-014-0038-6.pdf