Cord Blood Promises

Whether you decide to bank privately or publicly, you must first enroll by filling out an extensive questionnaire. If banking privately, a deposit will be required. (If choose public banking, find out if the attending physician will charge a collection fee. Some do and some do not.) The questionnaire must be usually be completed and signed by your physician by the end of the 34th week of pregnancy. Most companies will then send out a collection kit and follow up with a phone call. After the birth, the doctor obtains the cord blood and returns it to the couple, who pack it according to instructions. The lab will usually arrange a pickup. That’s it. The procedure itself is safe and painless.

Once it reaches the lab, it undergoes further screening. According to Donald Hudspeth, general manager and international project manager at Cryobanks International, Inc., about forty percent of public donations are accepted, with the largest majority being rejected to to a low volume of stem cells in the sample. Nationally, the cord blood being used averages 1.4 billion cells per sample. “If the sample is already below that minimum cell count to become transplantable, chances are its viability will be overshadowed by processing fees and storage costs.” Another ten percent or so is rejected for medical reasons, and a further ten percent due to errors in handling and collection.

Future uses forseen

Public banking makes the blood available to anyone who is compatible through human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, testing. It checks the recipient’s likelihood to create antibodies against the blood.  Ethnic minority donations are the most underrepresented in the banks, so mothers from these populations are encouraged to donate.

Right now the applications for cord blood are limited, but the scientists are busy. “The Food and Drug Administration just cleared a clinical trial for the use of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood for cerebral palsy,” says Misty Marchioni, director of Community Blood Services in New Windsor. It’s impossible to say what the possibilities may be for cord blood stem cells in the future, but some parents are banking on it.

Jamie Lober is a nationally known speaker providing information on women’s and pediatric health topics.

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