As more and more families choose to invest in their newborn’s future with cord blood banking, you may be asking yourself if cord blood banking is right for your family. With stem cell treatments frequently in the news, the full treatment options and growing potential can be a bit difficult to comprehend. We have the answers for all of your important questions!
What is cord blood banking?
Let’s start with the basics. Cord blood banking is the safe and painless process of collecting and storing the blood that remains in your newborn’s umbilical cord after the medical provider clamps the cord.
This blood is rich with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are valuable because of their ability to become any type of blood cell or blood component in the human body. Today, they are approved by the FDA to treat more than 80 serious medical conditions.
What types of conditions are approved for treatment with cord blood?
Most of the conditions that can be treated with cord blood stem cells are related to the blood. Some of the most prevalent and well-known conditions include leukemias, lymphomas, and anemias.
There are, however, other types of conditions that can be successfully treated with cord blood stem cells. These include solid tumors, such as neuroblastomas and some inherited conditions, including metabolic, immune system, and bone conditions such as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and osteopetrosis.
And there are new conditions still being approved for treatment with these stem cells. Just this year, hematopoietic stem cell transplant became the standard-of-care for a form of aggressive multiple sclerosis. The treatment essentially re-starts the immune system, and some of those receiving this treatment have not only seen the progression of the condition halted, but have also experienced their bodies beginning to repair the damage done by MS.
Americord has even released stem cells back to a client for the treatment of apraxia, a motor speech condition that can prevent an individual from speaking. The complete list of conditions that are FDA-approved for treatment with these stem cells can be found here.
Are there people who are opposed to cord blood banking?
The potential benefits to storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells are clear, yet you may have heard that some oppose private cord blood banking.
One concern is delayed cord clamping, which is the practice of waiting to clamp the umbilical cord until at least one minute after the baby is delivered. The practice is common because of benefits for the newborn, including improved iron levels in the blood that can help the body circulate oxygen.
Some believe that this practice drains all of the blood out of the umbilical cord, thus making cord blood banking impossible. However, it is actually entirely possible to bank cord blood after a 1-3 minute delay in clamping. Americord is the only bank to offer Cord Blood 2.0®, a proprietary collection and processing method that enables the preservation of up to twice as many stem cells as the industry-average method, which is particularly important if a lower blood volume is collected due to delayed cord clamping.
Others who may not recommend private cord blood banking tend to think the umbilical cord blood should be donated to public cord blood banks, where the stem cells can be released to someone else in need in the event there is a match.
But it is important to understand how public cord blood banking actually works. While it is free to donate cord blood to one of these public banks, it is not free for a family in need to actually obtain the banked stem cells. In fact, obtaining these valuable cells from one of the public banks can cost upwards of $50,000.
Combined with the fact that nearly 70% of donated cord blood is discarded nationwide, with some banks discarding closer to 90%, it is important to understand what this alternative actually looks like before deciding against private cord blood banking.
Overlooking the Immense Future Potential
Those considering foregoing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bank their newborn’s cord blood are at risk of opting out of the immense and growing potential of stem cell treatments. With over 1300 clinical trials seeking to expand the treatment potential of these stem cells, the future of stem cell medicine has never looked brighter.
There are advanced clinical trials that have the potential to lead to treatments for neurological conditions, like cerebral palsy, autoimmune conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and even diabetes and autism!
With autism spectrum disorder having a prevalence of 1 in 59 U.S. births, many parents are particularly interested in these clinical trials, the most notable of which is at Duke University. These trials are not looking for a “cure”, but are designed as a treatment or intervention. The goal is to relieve or lessen impacts of autism to a degree that conventional behavioral methods of treatment cannot achieve.
And potential advancements from clinical trials are already becoming reality. As noted above, the treatment of multiple sclerosis with these stem cells is a relatively new development. Those same treatment principles that have enabled the treatment of MS are also being used in clinical trials to help those who receive organ transplants avoid dangerous tissue rejection. There are currently patients who have undergone this transplant that have not needed any immunosuppressant drugs for years, a substantial development in the world of transplant medicine that is leading to expanded trials. This could revolutionize the way doctors prevent organ failure and help transplant patients live healthier lives.
With this type of progress being made, it is impossible to say just how far cord blood stem cell medicine will advance.
So is it really worth it?
Americord’s mission is to help people live healthier, longer lives – and we believe cord blood banking is a valuable part of achieving that mission. There are dozens of established treatments and the advancement of clinical trials for a host of other conditions has the future looking brighter than ever.
Parents all have their own reasons when they make the decision to bank their newborn’s cord blood. From those interested in the current benefits to those investing in the future of stem cell medicine, more and more parents are choosing to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.