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Umbilical Cord Blood: to bank or not to bank?

By D’Andra D. Bingham, MD

ImageUmbilical cord banking is just another subject with which expectant parents need to familiarize themselves. Cord blood banking refers to the collection of blood from a baby’s umbilical cord by a physician or midwife immediately after delivery. These cells can serve as stem cells for reconstitution of bone marrow. This means that cord blood cells can be used as a treatment option for a wide variety of diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and a number of other genetic and acquired disorders. If parents decide to bank their child’s cord blood, it is collected at delivery and then stored indefinitely at a bank’s site. There are two types of cord banks. Public cord banks collect and store blood, usually for free, for the use by any individual who needs a bone marrow transplant. Private cord banks are for-profit companies that store cord blood reserved for exclusive use by the donor or donor’s family. Private cord banks charge a fee from $1500-$2000 for the initial collection, then $100-$200 annually for continued storage. When weighing the decision on private cord blood banking, parents should realize that the use of cord blood stem cells is still considered investigational. The chances of the cord blood actually being needed by a family has been estimated at approximately 1/2700 or less. Also it is not known how long cord cells remain viable in storage. Cord blood stem cells should not be considered “biologic insurance” for a child. If needed, the stem cells are most likely to be used by a sibling or other family member. Stem cells cannot be used to treat genetic diseases or certain cancers in the individual from which they were collected because the cells would have the same genetic abnormality as the individual has. The decision to bank cord blood, public or private, must be made before the onset of labor, as parents need to bring the collection kit to the hospital with them. Parents should thoroughly investigate available companies. Confirm the companies are accredited by a reputable agency such as AABB, how long they have been involved in cord blood banking, whether any units banked through the company have been used for transplantation, and the outcomes of those cases. Parents should, of course, read all contracts carefully. Additional noncommercial information on potential benefits and limitations of cord blood donation is available at,, and


April 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment