How And Why I Chose Cord Blood Banking

Should you choose to go in for cord blood banking? And if yes, how does one go about choosing a stem cell bank?

Should you choose to go in for cord blood banking? And if yes, how does one go about choosing a stem cell bank?

Genetics was my major during graduation, so I knew the power of stem cells and their use in the cure of certain debilitating illnesses. When our baby was born, we were faced with the decision on whether to store our baby’s cord blood or not.

Stem cells can be used in the treatment of various genetic disorders, certain cancers, blood and immunological diseases. Stem cells also help the body recover from harsh treatments like chemotherapy which is used during cancer treatment.

The umbilical cord which is usually discarded post-delivery is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells – the first type of cells that are formed in the process of the formation of an embryo.  Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to reproduce themselves and also transform into any type of cells which are present in the body, such as liver cells, nerve cells or RBCs. These cells are a gold mine for research and treatment of many genetic illnesses.

Here is a list of some of the diseases that are treatable by stem cell therapy, courtesy Reelabs, a pharmaceutical company involved in clinical treatment using stem cells, as well as a line of nutraceutical products.

According to the Institute of Medicine, USA up to 20,000 American patients have benefitted from stem cell therapy. On the other hand thousands of patients who are in need of stem cells die every year waiting for a match. Some experts also believe that the chances of a child using his/her own stem cells in the future is very small. This leads to the debate on costs vs. benefits of banking cord blood cells.

Do I bank, or not?

Most private banks believe cord blood banking to be a form of insurance that you take for your child’s or family’s future as stem cells found in cord blood can be used for treating close relatives as well, provided they are a match.  Plus, if your family has a history of a specific, difficult to treat disease such as thalassemia or immune deficiency disorders, you may want to consider cord blood banking.

Usually, when the need for harvesting stem cells arises, it is done using the bone marrow of a close relative or a match. This is found to be a painful process and it is also difficult to find a match in time. On the contrary, storing stem cells from cord blood is not invasive or painful for either the mother or child.

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Some researchers also believe that people should be encouraged to donate cord blood if they do not want to store it. Currently only private banks are available for storing cord blood. In comparison to other countries including the US, India seems to be in the forefront of stem cell research and its uses, with government approved funding and facilities available.

We had this information and also considered the fact that science is moving at a remarkable rate, especially in using stem cell technology to develop cures for many diseases. We also consulted our gynaecologist on whether we should go ahead with cord blood banking. She believed that there are definite advantages in considering banking of cord blood, provided we could afford the costs.

How to choose a stem cell bank

Our doctor asked us to research various companies and choose one that has a good transplant rate. I did my own research and also came up with a few other pointers to consider.

Here is a cheat sheet of tips to consider while choosing a good stem cell bank for your child:

  • Stem cell banking is a medical service where quality is important. Hence the cheapest option might not always be the best option. Instead, check whether the company has the necessary certifications and experience in the field.
  • Find out if the bank has a good transplant rate. Banks with clinical experience with stem cell therapy along with banking facilities and would be a good choice to consider. A good pointer is whether the bank has tie-ups or collaborations with reputed hospitals and transplant centres – after all, storing cord blood is useful only when the possibility of therapy is kept open.
  • The stem cell bank should also possess the technology to collect, preserve and store stem cells from other significant products of conception, i.e. placenta, amniotic sac, and amniotic fluid.
  • The stem cell bank should also use a sizable chunk of its revenues in scientific activities like meaningful R&D, scientific innovations, clinical trials and publications.
  • With global advances in stem cell research and therapy, stem cells could be used to treat many common diseases including diabetes, heart failure, liver cirrhosis, osteoarthritis, and kidney failure. It is therefore important that the stem cell bank invests in such research on multiple diseases/conditions, for your investment to be worthwhile in the future.
  • The bank should be willing to answer all your questions openly, and should give you details on their storage facilities as well as experience with therapies.
  • Choose a stem cell bank that has good thermal integrity for transportation.
  • The bank should have experience with extracting the stem cells within the period when the cells are most viable – processing of any biological material
    has to be time bound (the earlier, the better) to prevent its deterioration and ensure the best yield of stem cells extracted from it.
  • Check for reviews about the bank from existing customers of the bank. Today, many customers leave their reviews online and these can be an indication.

From our experience with cord blood banking, I would also suggest that parents discuss with the bank and try and have a technician present for drawing the cord blood, as there are high chances of contamination during the process of drawing the blood.

Banking cord blood is a decision most parents will have to take for themselves based on the pros and cons of cord blood banking. In case parents are not planning to store the cord blood for various reasons, they could also consider donating the cord blood for research as stem cells promise a brighter future.

This post was supported by Reelabs, although based on research from independent sources. You can find more information here on stem cell therapy and its potential. Always consult with your physician in order to make an informed decision. 


About the Author

Anju Jayaram

A traveler at heart and a writer by chance a vital part of a vibrant team called Women's Web. I Head Marketing at Women's and am always evolving new ways in read more...

71 Posts | 351,134 Views

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