Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stem Cell Storage: Pros and Cons

The umbilical cord stem cells storage is helpful to protect a baby from life-threatening diseases in the future, but beware as there are also cost implications.

Every parent wishes that their children will be always healthy and happy for their entire lives. There are lots of factors that influence child’s development including diet, education, lifestyle, environment, etc. and one major factor to consider for a new baby’s future is storing his or her umbilical cord blood stem cell. You may be wondering what cord blood banking is, why it’s important, and should we go with a private cord blood bank or donate to a public bank? Going through the given list of pros and cons of stem cell storage can help you make better decisions, so read it and know whether it's right for you, your child and your family.

Happy family

Banking cord blood is a secure and painless process that generally takes less than five minutes and takes place instantly after baby is born. As soon as the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and the remaining blood in the cord is collected. Then the cord blood is sent to the laboratory, where it undergoes processing and afterwards it is frozen in cryogenic storage tanks. The umbilical cord blood contains a particular type of stem cells called Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells (HPCs), which can be injected into children with blood related diseases and cancers such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

The use of umbilical cord blood stem cells has been increasing since last 20 years. Several doctors suggest banking for a number of reasons. Cord blood banking generates the likelihood of using your child’s own stem cells (autologous stem cells) without need of an invasive surgery. And even if the child never needs the stem cells, in some cases any member of the family who is an appropriate match could use your baby's cord blood stem cells for transplant medicine. On average, siblings are 25% compatible matches for stem cell transplantation. Today umbilical cord blood is used to treat various life-threatening diseases that need stem cell transplants (also called bone marrow transplants), like leukemia or lymphoma, certain other cancers, immune and metabolic disorders.

When it comes to storing cord blood, parents have two options - private blood bank or public blood bank. Both these banks provide you a service that helps to secure the health of your child, so take your time and discuss about it with your family.

Private cord blood banking - pros and cons

It stores cord blood for personal use by the family only. In case, your child or a family member needs a stem cell transplant in the future, at that time, you don’t have to search for a suitable donor and also there is a high chance that your baby’s cord blood is properly matched for your family member. The success rates of cord blood transplants with cord blood from a family member are double compared to transplants with a public donor’s cord blood.

You have to pay a fee for storage of cord blood in private banks. In case of genetic diseases, a transfusion with a person’s own cord blood may not be enough. This practice is not used much as the costs connected with it are high and the possibilities of a family member ever using the cord blood are slim too.

Public cord blood banking - pros and cons

It collects donated cord blood for medical research purpose or for helping people in need. There is generally no charge connected with this service. It makes cord blood stem cells available to the public. After the birth of a baby, blood is collected, marked anonymously and sent to a public bank to potentially save the life of another child one day.

If you choose this option, then there is no guarantee that the cord blood you donated or a suitable match will be available to your child or a family member when a disease occurs that needs a stem cell transplant for treatment. Although match is found, there is a greater chance of refusal when getting cord blood from non-relatives. Here, the bank is the owner of your child’s stored cord blood, so you don’t have any right to say to whom the bank gives it.

Stem Cell Storage: Pros

Protect baby’s health and save life of other family members - A baby using his or her own cord blood will always be perfect match for his or her own stem cells, and it can be also suitable match for a sibling or any family member as there is a higher chance of survival when using stem cells from a related donor. There is a 25 percent chance that a sibling will be a perfect HLA match, a 50 percent chance that they will be a partial match, and a 25 percent chance that they will be not match at all.

Save lives of other people - As cord blood is rich in stem cells, it can morph into all types of blood cells, and can help repair tissues, organs and blood vessels, and can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, like leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. Some ways exists for transplant patients to get blood cells like umbilical and placenta, bone marrow, peripheral/circulation, however cord blood is easier to match with patients, and as it is collected during birth from the umbilical cord, it's a painless process.

Future uses in medicine - Cord blood holds assurance for future medical practices as scientists are still finding new methods to treat more diseases with cord blood. The exclusive properties of cord blood stem cells can potentially treat many more diseases like autism, brain injury, Type 1 diabetes and cerebral palsy.

Very less chance of contaminated with latent viruses - As the cord blood stem cells are hardly ever contaminated with latent viruses, it outcomes into better approval by the body in comparison to stem cells from bone marrow. Due to this factor, cord blood and cord tissue stem cells are called ‘privileged’, for their special feature of being unexposed to most diseases.

Immediately accessible for treatment - Family banked cord blood stem cells are readily available, so it allows treatment to start earlier if needed, with no time wastage in the search and matching procedure which are necessary for publicly banked stem cells.

Stem Cell Storage: Cons

Very expensive - The high price is a key factor for everyone interested. Although it is wholly free to donate a cord blood, you have to pay annual fees for collecting, testing, registering, and storing it.

Cord blood can't be used to treat any disease - In case, your child is born with a genetic condition like muscular dystrophy or spina bifida, then the stem cells would have that condition, so it couldn't be used for treatment of any disease.


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