A Different Brand of Banking - Cord Blood Banking

By Susan Para
District Reporter


Cord blood banking has become an increasingly popular option for expectant families, but many do not understand the procedure, the process, or why a family would choose to participate. Cord blood is blood from the umbilical cord that supplies nutrients and oxygen to an unborn child. This blood is a source of "stem cells'" which have the ability to differentiate into any type of blood cell and stimulate new growth throughout the body. Umbilical cord stem cells should not be confused with the more controversial "embryonic stem cells" which have been covered extensively in the media.


There are many reasons families might consider cord blood banking. "Storing a baby's umbilical cord blood stem cells provides that child with potentially lifesaving treatment options for many life-threatening diseases. Some of the ‘over-forty' diseases currently treated with umbilical cord stem cell transplant include many of the red cell (e.g. sickle cell anemia) and white cell disorders (e.g. severe combined immune deficiency) and cancers such as leukemia. Furthermore, [using one's own] umbilical cord stem cells provides an exact match for a child, which significantly improves the chance of a successful stem cell transplant...There is also an increased likelihood that those same stem cells will be an exact match for other family members..." stated Michele LaSalle-Williams, a representative from Viacord, and a member of the Colorado Springs Parents of Multiples Club (CO).


Families interested in cord blood banking can contact any of the companies which offer the service for a collection kit. The kit is taken to the hospital for the doctor to use at delivery. After a baby is born, but before the placenta is delivered, the physician inserts a needle into the umbilical vein to collect umbilical cord blood. The blood is drawn directly into a special sterile bag which ensures protection from potentially harmful contaminants. The process takes no more than a few minutes. Once the blood is collected, the bag is sealed and labeled with the child's identification and unique tracking number. The family then contacts the company which then arranges for courier pick-up from the bedside and transports the blood within 24 hours to a processing laboratory. After the blood arrives at the laboratory, a battery of tests is performed to determine blood volume, the concentration of stem cells, and specimen viability (e.g. whether the specimen is free of contamination). Samples of the mother's blood are also taken and sent for infectious disease testing as well. The cord blood is then cryopreserved, or frozen, in temperatures near -320 degrees F. Cord blood may remain cryogenically stored for as long as the family chooses. Costs involved vary little from company to company and range from an initial fee of $1000 to $1300 and $125 to $150 per year for continued storage. Most companies will discount the fees for multiples.


"Although the potential use of umbilical cord blood is expanding rapidly, the likelihood that a family without a defined risk will need to use their child's umbilical cord blood is very low. There is no guarantee that the umbilical cord blood will be a match for any other family member or will result in a cure," Michele emphasized. "As with any other type of transplant, the results depend on many other factors including the patient's overall health, type of disease, and genetic matching."


For more information about cord blood banking, visit Viacord's website at: www.viacord.com, or simply do an internet search on "cord blood banking."