Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cord Blood Banking

In recent years, the prospect of medical advances from the use of stem cells have been the subject of celebration and controversy. The use of embryonic stem cells to cure numerous diseases has also led to the creation of services that allow parents to store the blood from the umbilical cord, which contains embryonic stem cells from your baby.

According to proponents, embryonic stem cells are likely to provide treatments for a multitude of diseases in the future. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to develop into different types of cells in the body. Because they have the ability to transform into a variety of different cells, many scientists believe that they have the potential to create replacement cells and provide cures for diseases. The use of embryonic stem cells has been controversial because much of the research involving them involves the destruction of embryos, resulting in the death of the baby.

One advantage of banking cord blood is that it does not result in the death of the baby. Blood in the umbilical cord, which is normally discarded along with the cord and placenta, contains stem cells that might one day be valuable to your child’s health. The cord blood registry companies charge an initial fee of approximately $1,500 to $2,000 dollars initially, plus an annual fee of about $150, to store your child’s cord blood. Advocates state that these stem cells might help not only your child, but other members of your family as well.

Before you decide whether to make this rather substantial investment, there are a few things that you should consider. One is that although stem cells are currently used in the treatment of over seventy diseases, none of these treatments require the use of embryonic stem cells. All stem cell treatments currently in use are a product of adult stem cells.

A second consideration is that new research indicates that is possible to create stem cells from ordinary cells. Researchers have used human eggs and skin cells to create cells that act like stem cells. Creation of these pseudo-stem cells also does not harm human embryos. Therefore, if embryonic stem cells used to create a treatment in the future, banked cord blood might not be necessary to take advantage of it.

A further consideration is that cord blood is needed by some transplant patients. Patients with leukemia and lymphoma, as well other diseases, frequently need donated blood cells, although not stem cells, to aid their bodies in accepting transplanted organs. A sibling normally provides the best match for compatible tissue.

As the birth of my daughter approached, we discussed the possibility of using a cord blood bank with our doctor. The doctor said that, in his opinion, the decision bank cord blood relied on two main factors. One factor is how much of a financial hardship the fees would be. Cord blood banking is expensive, especially when you consider that the expense is coming at a time of other major expenses such as the medical costs of pregnancy and delivery and the costs associated with outfitting your home with the necessary paraphernalia that a baby needs.

A second factor is the likelihood of needing the cord blood in the near future. If you believe that your child has a high probability of a serious medical problem, such as cancer, then cord blood banking might be a good idea. Similarly, since these blood cells often match siblings, banking might help your other children who are ill. There is also a chance that the cells could match other family members as well.

The doctor also pointed out that advances in medical technology, such as the ability to replicate stem cells, might well render the need for cord blood cells unnecessary in the near future. In some cases, even if blood cells or stem cells are needed, they can be obtained from other sources, such as a sibling or bone marrow. Very few people who bank cord blood ever need to use it. He also noted that he did not choose to bank his own child’s cord blood.

In the end, we decided not to bank our daughter’s cord blood. In our opinion, the large cost and the low probability of using the blood in the future made it seem to be an unnecessary expense to us. Instead, we are considering donating the cord blood to a public blood bank. There is a much higher probability that a stranger will need our daughter’s blood cells to help survive a transplant. Maybe the life we created can help give life to someone else.


No comments: