Cord Blood Information
Although the odds of a child needing cord blood are fairly low, they are not as low as you would think. Studies show that the odds of a child from birth to 21 needing a transplant using his or her own stem cells are about 1 in 2,700, while the odds of an individual of any age needing stem cells, either their own or from a donor are about 1 in 217. Once a child is diagnosed with a disease affecting their blood or immune system, it is generally preferable to treat them with another person's stem cells which do not contain a predisposition toward the disease. It is likely that in the future, cord blood will be used for regenerative medicine therapies, allowing the patient's own stem cells to repair the damaged cells in the body.
Should You Bank Your Child's Cord Blood?
Cord blood can contain stem cells which have the potential to save lives, and the birth of your child is a one-time opportunity to potentially help society by donating your baby's cord blood to a public bank. There is a greater likelihood that transplant patients will recover much better when they receive stem cells from a related donor rather than a donor who is not biologically related. The probability that two siblings will have a perfect 6/6 match for a bone marrow transplant is only 25%, while the probability they will have the 4/6 match necessary for a cord blood transplant is higher, at 39%. This means that a healthy sibling would have a greater chance of being able to help a sick sibling if cord blood had been banked. You should take into account your own family's medical history as well as your heritage when deciding whether or not to bank cord blood.
Why Don't We All Bank Cord Blood?
In short, not everybody banks cord blood because it costs money to do so. There are only a limited number of institutions who maintain public banks and take cord blood for free, which means that the majority of the cord blood banks do charge you a fee for their costs in processing, freezing and storing the cord blood. If you have a family member who is at risk of needing a stem cell transplant, there are financial assistance programs which can help.
Advantages of Cord Blood Transplants vs. Bone Marrow Transplants
You may wonder why bank cord blood when bone marrow transplants are readily available. The primary advantage of a cord blood transplant is that it poses no risk to mother or child, whereas a bone marrow donor is subject to a surgical procedure, which brings risks, just as any surgical procedure does. Stored cord blood can be used immediately when the need arises, whereas finding a bone marrow donor can take weeks or months because of the need to contact and test donors. The primary advantage of cord blood stem cells over stem cells from adults is that there is less chance of graft versus host disease. To transplant adult stem cells, the patient and donor must match over at least 10 of 12 tissue types, while with cord blood the medical outcomes are just as good with a 4 out of 6 match. Cord blood gives hope for those hard-to-match patients as it doesn't require a perfect match.
Disadvantages of Cord Blood Transplants
Generally speaking, a cord blood collection only has enough stem cells to transplant into a large child or small adult, and it can also take at least a week longer to repopulate the patient's blood supply when using cord blood transplant, leaving the patient vulnerable to a potentially fatal infection for a longer period of time.
What Does the Future Hold?
New studies are being done, and there is promising data that cord blood transplants may be able to help in the treatment or cure for Type 1 diabetes, cerebral palsy, and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Banking cord blood is a decision which requires research and a clear idea of why you would want to do so, yet cord blood cells may also be the key to treating and curing many diseases that now hold no hope.