How do you separate the hype from the facts about cord blood banking, so you can decide what’s ultimately right for you and your family?
Here are cord blood myths and facts published by the Cord Blood Association so you can make an informed decision regarding storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells:
Myth: Cord blood is a medical waste that has no value.
Fact: A baby’s umbilical cord contains blood-forming stem cells that, when transplanted, can rebuild the bone marrow and immune system and save the life of a patient with a serious blood disease such as leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell disease. Infusion of these cells can also treat patients with inherited genetic disorders, bone marrow failure or inherited immune deficiencies. More than 40,000 patients with serious diseases and disorders have benefited from cord blood treatments since the first transplant in 1988.
Myth: Cord blood collection could affect or harm my baby.
Fact: Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord and placenta (often called “afterbirth”) after the baby is delivered and the cord has been cut. No blood is taken directly from your baby. The collection procedure does not interfere in any way with labor or the baby’s delivery, and poses no risk to the mother or baby.
Myth: Expecting parents have up until the time of the baby’s delivery to decide to collect or donate cord blood.
Fact: Preparations need to be made in advance of delivery for the collection of cord blood. Expecting parents should talk to their obstetrical physician or other health care provider between the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy about their interest in storing or donating a baby’s cord blood.
Myth: Cord blood can be donated at almost any hospital.
Fact: Unfortunately, not every hospital offers the option of cord blood donation. In Canada, there are several family cord blood banks to choose from and limited options for public banking. Canadian public cord blood banking services are provided by Canadian Blood Services, Hema-Quebec and Victoria’s Angels Cord Blood Registry. These public banks accept cord blood donations only from specific hospitals. Once donated, a cord blood unit becomes property of the public bank and will be banked if it meets stringent criteria. A cord blood unit banked in a public bank is listed on international registries and made available to patients in need worldwide.
Myth: Cord blood stored in a family bank can be used for treating anyone in the family.
Fact: Cord blood stored in a family bank cannot be used to treat just anyone in the family. Cord blood cells have genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that need to closely match those of the patient. Brothers and sisters with the same biological parents have a 25% chance of being a perfect match, and a 50% chance of being a partial match. Other family members are much less likely to be a match.
Myth: There is little reason to store cord blood since stem cells can be accessed from other sources, such as bone marrow.
Fact: Cord blood is one of three sources of blood-forming stem cells used in transplants. The other two sources are bone marrow and the blood that circulates through the body (called peripheral blood). Each source has advantages and disadvantages for various diseases, stages of disease and patients. Among other advantages of cord blood are:
Unlike cells from adult donors, cord blood has not been as exposed to viruses, chemicals and environmental pollutants that can alter cell function.
Cord blood immune cells are immature and can tolerate a recipient better than adult cells, so cord blood cells do not have to be matched as closely to the patient as do cells from adult donors.
Cord blood may be accessed more quickly than stem cells from an adult donor who may have registered for donation years ago. The donor must be located, consented, tested and harvested.
Consequently, cord blood may be the preferred source for patients who have an urgent life-threatening genetic disorder, need a transplant quickly, or have an uncommon tissue type because of their racial or ethnic heritage. The transplant physician team, together with the patient, can determine the best stem cell source from the available options.
Myth: Cord blood treatments are experimental.
Fact: Cord blood is an accepted source of blood stem cells for patients undergoing a blood transplant. As such, they are used in treating more than 80 blood cancers, inherited genetic diseases, bone marrow failure, and immune diseases. A list of these diseases is available online.
In other areas, cord blood therapies are being studied for nerve, heart, bone and metabolism diseases, especially in the rapidly advancing field of regenerative medicine. The value of cord blood therapies for these diseases is being determined by ongoing studies.
Myth: Cord blood transplantation is limited to the treatment of hematologic or blood diseases.
Fact: Cord blood transplantation is an accepted treatment for blood diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell, as well as inherited genetic disorders, bone marrow failure and immune deficiency diseases.
In addition to these, research is under way to determine whether components of cord blood can treat other medical conditions such as birth asphyxia (brain damage from lack of oxygen), cerebral palsy and autism. Cord blood therapies for these brain injuries and diseases are not standard medical practice, but are being evaluated in ongoing clinical studies and may prove useful in the future.
Myth: Family cord blood banks have few quality standards.
Fact:Voluntary standards have been developed by two accrediting agencies: AABB and the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). These organizations gather data from the banks and conduct on-site inspections to ensure that the cord blood is collected safely, and handled in a way that protects the quality, purity and potency of the cells.
The Cord Blood Association recommends that expecting parents ask about and consider a bank’s accreditation status when selecting a cord blood bank.
Myth: Private family banking only makes sense if there is a history of blood diseases in the family.
Fact: For a child born into a family that has no history of blood diseases, the chances of ever needing a privately stored cord blood unit are small, but not zero. Through 2014, of the estimated 4 million privately stored cord blood units in the world, more than 400 units have been used for donor transplants. In addition, more than 500 donor units have been used in promising clinical trials in areas such as brain injury, among others.
Myth: Since I banked cord blood for my first child, I don’t need to store cord blood for the second child.
Fact: If you banked cord blood for your first child, the reasons for banking cord blood for other brothers and sisters are the same. There is about a 25% chance that any two siblings will have identical typing.
Myth: If I choose to save cord blood for my child at birth, I do not need to also save cord tissue.
Fact: Every year, new uses for cord blood and cord tissue are proposed or discovered. Umbilical cord blood, as well as other birthing tissues, hold promise for treating a range of diseases, and you may wish to consider saving both at the same time.
There is no standard method to store birthing tissues other than cord blood at this time. You should ask your cord blood bank about how the cord tissue is stored and how it might be used in the future.
Myth: If someone in my family needs a cord blood transplant, they can access a matched unit in a public bank only if I donated my baby’s cord blood to a public bank.
Fact: Anyone in need of an unrelated donor for transplantation can access public banks.
* Source published on www.cb-association.org/myths-and-facts