Can the Umbilical Cord Save Lives?
Perhaps. Once tossed in the trash, they are now thought to help kids with a host of ailments. So why aren't more of them being saved?
Just Who Is a Candidate for Private Banking?
"We strongly advise families that have a child in the family who has had
a transplantable disease to bank privately," says Fraser. When these
high-risk families bank privately, they are doing so for use in a sibling and
not in the baby whose blood is collected, says Fraser. Why can't a baby use its
own cord blood? If that baby develops sickle-cell anemia or leukemia, the
disease will likely be present in its cord blood as well.
Another hurdle for public cord blood banking is amassing a sufficiently
diverse stockpile of donations for use by the general population. A center must
bank 2,000 to 5,000 samples -- again, at a cost of $1,500 each -- before it can
even begin placing them in transplant recipients, says Heidi Patterson,
national director of the American Red Cross Cord Blood Banking program.
The federal study underway by the NHLBI hopes to answer questions about the
viability and usefulness of cord blood stem cells. Only when the stem cells are
proven useful for many people would the government underwrite the massive cost
of a national cord blood banking system, researchers say. Which leaves many
expectant parents like Lisa Taner with no means of expressing their biological
So as Taner enjoys her newborn baby Drew, she writes to newspapers,
television programs, and politicians to promote public funding. "If bone
marrow foundations are being funded, why can't we get federal cord blood
banking funded?" she asks. "It's easier and less costly than bone
marrow transplants. It just makes good sense."
Kristi Coale is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist who specializes
in science and medical issues.