Banking on Umbilical Cord Blood
Big Hope for Cord Blood
Procedure Simple -- But Storage Can Get Costly continued...
"We don't know anything about his medical history," she
tells WebMD about her husband. "We've tried without success to obtain
information but don't know any of his blood relatives. It seemed like a simple
thing to do that could give significant benefit."
But banking cord blood through private companies can be costly.
The Liljas used Cord Blood Registry (CBR), in San Bruno, Calif., who charge a
first-time fee of $1,250 and then an annual storage charge of $95.
David Harris, PhD, director of CBR's cord blood bank, says
storing cord blood is a wise investment when you consider the inevitability of
future advances in stem cell research.
"Today we can use stem cells for blood cancers, some solid
tumors, and genetic diseases," he says. "But what will we be able to
use it for in the future? Gene therapy will expand, and tissue engineering is
going to explode. Though I might not get cancer, when I consider all these
future possibilities, the likelihood [of needing stem cells] might go up
several hundred times. And when you amortize the costs, it's
Better Safe Than Sorry?
Harris, who has banked cord blood for his own children, says
that on the basis of current capabilities, the chances of a person needing stem
cells is in the range of 1 in 2,000.
Yet that is surely on the low end of estimates. In 1999, the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement recommending private
banking of cord blood only when there is a family member with a current or
potential need to undergo a stem cell transplant.
"The range of estimates [for likelihood of using stored
stem cells] is from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000," according to the AAP
statement. "Given the difficulty in estimating the need for using one's own
cord blood cells for transplantation, private storage of cord blood as
biological insurance is unwise."
The AAP does recommend philanthropic donation of cord blood to
Yet as Harris points out, private companies will store cord
blood shipped from anywhere in the world, but public banking is accessible only
at hospitals and centers that provide the service.