Cord Blood Awareness Month
Stem cell research can be a touchy subject. There are many ethical arguments for and against, and people tend to have strong opinions regarding the controversy. For people with life-threatening medical conditions though, stem cells can be a lifesaving form of treatment and there is more than one way to obtain them. One of the sometimes overlooked methods of collection is through saving cord blood. July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month, which "strives to empower expectant parents to make an informed choice regarding their options to save their newborn's cord blood stem cells," according to the Cord Blood Registry.
But why save cord blood stem cells? Aside from the possible medical advances that stem cell research promises, cord blood transplants have been used to treat many serious medical conditions, including:
- Acute Leukemia
- Chronic Leukemia
- High-Risk Solid Tumors
- Hodgkin & Non-Hodgekin Lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome
- Beta Thalassemia
- Diamond-Blackfan Anemia
- Fanconi Anemia
- Severe Aplastic Anemia
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Chronic Granulomatous Disease
- Hystiocytic Disorders
- Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency
- Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases
- Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
- Krabbe Disease
- Hurler Syndrome
- Metachromatic Leukodystrophy
- Sanfilippo Syndrome
However, there are still concerns regarding the banking and storage of cord blood and for valid reasons. There are multiple options for storing cord blood and each one has its own positives and negatives to consider.
Option 1: Donate to a public cord blood bank.
Pros: It's free and it's available to any patient who needs a transplant.
Cons: Only certain hospitals are able to collect cord blood for storage in a public bank and families must meet certain eligibility requirements to donate.
Option 2: Store in a family (private) cord blood bank.
Pros: The blood is stored for exclusive use by your family and it is immediately available when you need a transplant. This option is readily available to families worldwide (no eligibility requirements).
Cons: This option can be a bit pricey, costing approximately $4,000 between collection and storage fees and there's no guarantee that the blood will be usable. An article in Parents Magazine sites an example in which a four month old little boy was unable to use his stored cord blood stem cells because they were tainted with the same disease he was being treated for.
Option 3: Save for a family member who has a medical need through the Related Donor Cord Blood Program.
Pros: Storing umbilical cord blood from a new baby can save the life of an older sibling. There is no fee for eligible families
Cons: There are very specific eligibility requirements that families must meet to qualify for the program. This option can also cause controversy because some argue that it encourages parents to purposely "breed" savior siblings - children born for the sole purpse of saving a sibling's life.
Option 4: Choose not to save the cord blood. It will be discarded after birth.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to cord blood donation and banking. Your decision should be based entirely on your family's specific needs. You should take into account your family heritage, medical history, and financial situation. Talk to your doctor and research further for more information.
What do you think? Is cord blood banking a good idea or not? Do you think that someday stem cell research will help the medical community find a cure for diabetes, cancer, or other serious medical conditions? Share your thoughts with us in a comment!