Cord blood banking refers to the storage of blood found in the umbilical cord (within 10 post delivery) for further future use in a life-threatening situation. Cord blood transplantation is found to effectively treat diseases of the blood and immune system like leukaemia, sickle-cell disease, metabolic disorders, genetic disorders, cancer and a host of other paediatric conditions. Studies have found cord blood transplants to be superior to the traditional bone marrow transplantation for which finding a suitable donor within the stipulated period of time is a tall ask.
There are two main bifurcations in the area of cord blood banking- public cord blood banking and private cord blood banking. The former enjoys the support of the medical community while the latter is believed to make desperate attempts to attract expectant parents to opt for cord blood banking as a form of insurance for their child (this has also been termed as emotional marketing).
If you choose a private cord blood bank, the cord blood can be used by anyone who requires it. Once donation has taken place, the blood cannot be identified or retrieved by the family who donated it. Private banks on the other hand, operate in a manner quite opposite. Here the donation is closely concurrent with the identity of the donor so that it can be used by him or his siblings at a later date. This however, is a very expensive alternative as private banks charge anywhere between one or two thousand dollars.
In addition to these two alternatives, parents have some other options for donating their child’s cord blood. Efforts are being made to create a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Network to prepare, store, and distribute human umbilical cord blood stem cells for the treatment of patients requiring them.
It has been suggested that cord blood banking for their own use can be a good idea for families that have a child suffering from leukaemia, lymphoma, other cancers, sickle cell disease, thalassemia or other transplant-treatable diseases. It may also be a good idea if another family member has a condition that can be treated with a bone marrow transplant.
However medical health professionals have pointed out that empirical evidence that confirms that children will need their own cord blood for future treatment is severely lacking. There also is no evidence to vouch for the safety or effectiveness of autologous cord blood transplantation for the treatment of malignant neoplasm’s. It has been observed in specific cases that there may be some medical issues regarding using one’s own cord blood cells (an autologous transplant). This will require then using cells from another donor, with the vast majority being unrelated donors. However, studies have shown that cord blood stem cells can also be used for siblings and other members of your family who have a matching tissue type. Siblings have up to a 75% chance of compatibility, and the cord blood may even be a match for parents (50%) and grandparents.
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