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Experts Tout Value of Cord Blood Banks

Researchers Say Donating Baby's Umbilical Cord Blood Can Be a Lifesaver
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Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banks continued...

Parents can also donate their baby's umbilical cord blood to a public bank for free where it will be used for research and transplants to treat a variety of diseases.

"Private cord blood banks recruit for more mothers to donate, but the the likelihood of their cord blood having any benefit for their own children is essentially very low," says Pablo Rubinstein, MD, the chief scientist for cord blood, stem cells, and tissue at the New York Blood center in New York City. He says cord blood from public banks has been used for more than 15,000 transplants. In contrast, cord blood stored in private banks has only been used for about 60 or 70 transplants.

The limitations of private cord blood banking are twofold, he says. They include the low likelihood of usage and the viability of the cells over the long term.

If a child develops leukemia, for example, there are likely cells in his or her cord blood that would retrigger the disease process.

What's more, "companies that do private banking promise that the cells will be available for some time, but [they will not be viable] when the child is 50 or 60 and has some type of disease that cord blood may help like Parkinson's tremors or dementia," he says.

However, "if anything happens to their child or relatives with disease that require bone marrow transplants -- such as leukemia and lymphoma -- they would have access to their cord blood and that of many others in the public bank," adds Malcolm A.S. Moore, DPhil, the Enid A. Haupt Professor of Cell Biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

That's not to say that there aren't downsides to public cord blood banks.

For one, there is no guarantee that people who donate cord blood to a public bank will have access to their blood if and when they need it. What's more, public banking is currently only available in a limited number of U.S. hospitals and often only on certain days of the week.

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