Is Cord Blood Banking Worth It?

Storing cord blood may serve as a life-saver for a family that needs it in future to treat their child of a malignancy or non-malignancy ailment. It could also help a full-blooded sibling who may suffer from a stem cell-transplant treatable disease. At least that’s when a family can realize the benefits of banking cord blood. However, it may not always occur that the family will actually use the cord blood even on their newborn because some ailments are better treated if stem cells are picked from an unrelated donor for example, the case of leukemia.2

Your Child May not Need it

Because the chances that a baby will need her or his own cord blood for treatment are remote and that most conditions which could be treated by use of cord blood may be existing within the infant’s cord blood stem cells, it may not make a lot of sense to have the blood stored for autologous transplant. There isn’t much scientific research that supports this claim, but there are still other diseases that are being studied to see if they can be treated using a child’s own cord blood without posing risks.

The storage life of stem cells derived from cord blood isn’t certain meaning researchers don’t know how long the units would last in their frozen form. So paying initial storage fees and the yearly fee until a child is say, 18 or 21, or until it is needed may not sound viable. There is no guarantee that the stem cells will be viable after that long time. A genetic counselor may assist you make a decision when you feel that your family is at risk of having heritable diseases that could be cured using stem cell transplants.1,2

More Research Underway

For a child that doesn’t have a history of diseases like sickle cell anemia, leukemia, or lymphoma in the family, chances of him or her using the blood are small. It’s only about 1 in 217, according to Frances Verter, Ph.D who is also the director and founder of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.  With more research being conducted and the possibility that regenerative diseases could also be treated using cord blood, it’s not possible to entirely dismiss the idea of cord blood banking for self use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that certain diseases have successfully been treated with cord blood, though, there isn’t strong evidence supporting that.

At Duke University, scientists are looking into the possibility of stem cells taken from cord blood being able to treat various diseases. The scientists are working to see if a patient’s own cord blood may be used to treat Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. At the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California other trials are also being done to see the possibility of cord blood treating autism.1,2

Other Patients Need it

Even if a family won’t use cord blood to treat one of their members or a relative, it is possible that the stem cells can help another patient. In fact, today experts are advising that those wishing to store cord blood, they consider public banking. When you bank the cord blood with a public bank for others to access it, you will not be required to pay the collection, extraction, preservation, and storage fees. The bank pays for it and you know that at least you may help someone in need someday.

If your infant has a genetic condition like spina bifida or muscular dystrophy and leukemia, then the stem cells also have those conditions. The newborn may not benefit from the cord blood because of the risks involved. However, if the child is healthy and there is an older sibling or a close relative with a hereditary condition, the child’s cord blood may provide a good match for them whenever they need treatment, so private banking in such a case is considered viable. 4

Should You Bank It?

You are paying up to $2500 to collect and store blood in a family bank, and that is minus a yearly fee amounting to about $175. If you are not certain you will need that blood for family use, it is a challenging financial and health decision to make for the family. Not many families can afford it, so if you don’t have a sibling or the family has no inherent risks of having heritable diseases, there may be no need to consider private banking. However, if you are concerned your child, sibling, or a close relative may suffer or they already have an inherited disease, then you could bank the cord blood with a private bank. Whatever the decision you make, it should be a personal choice and not from some ill-intended advise.3

For all good reasons, public banking is recommended because it allows other patients to access stem cells whenever they need treatment. The procedure for donating cord blood to a bank isn’t complex and it doesn’t present any risks to the mother or the baby. It is painless and performed with proper care and safety precautions. You won’t pay anything because the cord bank takes care of the expenses.

Keywords: benefits of banking cord blood; stem cells; genetic counselor; cord blood banking; store cord blood; donating cord blood

Reference List

  1. Is Cord Blood Banking Worth It?
  3. Is cord blood banking worth it?
  4. Cord Blood Banking – Is It Worth It? Pros and Cons.

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