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All families should decide what they want to do with their cord blood well before delivery and make the arrangements accordingly. Because the issue is complex and the decision is a personal one—it’s best to speak with your doctor about what’s right for your family.
Umbilical cord blood can save lives. Cord blood is rich in stem cells that can morph into all sorts of blood cells, which can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. There are a few ways for transplant patients to get blood cells (umbilical and placenta, bone marrow, peripheral/circulation), but cord blood is easier to match with patients, and because it is gathered during birth from the umbilical cord, it’s a painless procedure.
Now that you know the cord blood banking pros and cons, there really isn’t a right or wrong thing to do. The question is simply – What’s right for your family? Reputable websites and testimonials are your saving grace if you’re on the fence for investing or even donating.
“This is a medical service that has to be done when your baby’s cells arrive and you certainly want them to be handled by good equipment and good technicians,” says Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists. “It’s just not going to be cheap.” Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states cord blood has been used to treat certain diseases successfully, there isn’t strong evidence to support cord blood banking. If a family does choose to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to reduce costs.
Choosing a bank (specifically a private bank) for her daughter’s cord blood made perfect sense to Julie Lehrman, a mom based in Chicago. “We wanted the extra assurance that we were doing everything we could to keep Lexi healthy,” Lehrman says. “I was older when Lexi was born, and there’s a lot we didn’t know about my mom’s health history, so we felt that we were making a smart decision.” Fortunately, Lexi was born healthy, and neither she nor anyone else in the family has needed the cord blood since it was stored seven years ago. But Lehrman has no regrets; she still feels the family made a wise investment. “Lexi or her brother or even one of us could still need that blood in the future, so I’m thankful that we have it.” But banking your child’s cord blood may not be the right decision for you. Read on to see if you should opt for private cord blood banking.
There are some hospitals that have dedicated collections staff who can process mothers at the last minute when they arrive to deliver the baby. However, in the United States that is the exception to the rule.
Bone marrow and similar sources often requires an invasive, surgical procedure and one’s own stem cells may already have become diseased, which means the patient will have to find matching stem cells from another family member or unrelated donor. This will increase the risk of GvHD. In addition, finding an unrelated matched donor can be difficult, and once a match is ascertained, it may take valuable weeks, even months, to retrieve. Learn more about why cord blood is preferred to the next best source, bone marrow.
Both AAP and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have discouraged private storage as “biological insurance” in most other cases. For some blood cancers and other blood diseases, such as leukemia, a person’s own blood could most likely not be used for treatment—their stem cells would have the same mutation that caused the disease.
Cord blood banking is not always cheap. It’s completely free to donate blood to a public cord blood bank, but private banks charge $1,400 to $2,300 for collecting, testing, and registering, plus an annual $95 to $125 storing fee.
Cord blood transplants have become much more successful since the early 2000s. Clinicians have learned how to match people better to stored cord blood. Dosing for cord blood has become more reliable. Better care for patients going through a cord blood transplant has been improved. All of those benefits become even better if the patient is able to use their own cord blood that has been properly stored.
Stem cells from cord blood can be given to more people than those from bone marrow. More matches are possible when a cord blood transplant is used than when a bone marrow transplant is used. In addition, the stem cells in cord blood are less likely to cause rejection than those in bone marrow.
Cord blood is rich in stem cells, so it can be used to treat a wide range of diseases that may affect a child. The odds that any given child will need their cord blood, however, is only about 1 in 217. For families that do not have a history of sickle cell anemia, lymphoma, or leukemia, the costs of collecting and storing the blood may not make sense and public bank storage may be a better option.
The mother signs an informed consent which gives a “public” cord blood bank permission to collect the cord blood after birth and to list it on a database that can be searched by doctors on behalf of patients.  The cord blood is listed purely by its genetic type, with no information about the identity of the donor. In the United States, Be The Match maintains a national network of public cord blood banks and registered cord blood donations. However, all the donation registries around the world cooperate with each other, so that a patient who one day benefits from your child’s cord blood may come from anywhere. It is truly a gift to the benefit of humankind.
Chloe Savannah Metz’ mother donated her baby girl’s cord blood to the NCBP in December 2000. “Many thanks to the New York Blood Center for giving us the opportunity to donate our cord — we hope to give someone a second chance!” – Christine Metz
Sometimes cord blood units do not meet criteria for use in transplanting. Typically, this occurs if the amount of cord blood collected is too small or the unit contains too few cells. In this case, it may be used for research purposes that have been approved by the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank and meet required ethical standards.
However, parents should know that a child’s own cord blood (stored at birth), would rarely be suitable for a transplant today. It could not be used at present to treat genetic diseases, for example, because the cord blood stem cells carry the same affected genes and. if transplanted, would confer the same condition to the recipient. (See the story of Anthony Dones.) In addition, most transplant physicians would not use a child’s own cord blood to treat leukemia. There are two reasons why the child’s own cord blood is not safe as a transplant source. First, in most cases of childhood leukemia, cells carrying the leukemic mutation are already present at birth and can be demonstrated in the cord blood. Thus, pre-leukemic cells may be given back with the transplant, since there is no effective way to remove them (purge) today. Second, in a child with leukemia, the immune system has already failed to prevent leukemia. Since cord blood from the same child re-establishes the child’s own immune system, doctors fear it would have a poor anti-leukemia effect.
Donors to public banks must be screened for blood or immune system disorders or other problems. With a cord blood donation, the mother’s blood is tested for genetic disorders and infections, and the cord blood also is tested after it is collected. Once it arrives at the blood bank, the cord blood is “typed.” It is tracked by a computer so that it can be found quickly for any person who matches when needed.
Cord blood is collected by your obstetrician or the staff at the hospital where you give birth. Not all hospitals offer this service. Some charge a separate fee that may or may not be covered by insurance.
If you pay a private bank to store your cord blood, then it will always be available to you. No one can access the cord blood unless you authorize it. It will be reserved for your family and no one else. It cannot be donated for research purposes if your account remains in good standing. There may not be a guarantee that you’ll ever use it, but at least you’ll have it should there be a need to use it in the future.
Blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is put into a sterile bag. (The blood is put into the bag either before or after the placenta is delivered, depending upon the procedure of the cord blood bank.)
When considering cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta tissue banking, you want all of the facts. Americord’s® Cord Blood Comparison Chart gives you information not only on our costs and services, but also on how other companies measure up.
You certainly should, especially if you have a family history of any diseases or conditions that could be treated with cord blood stem cells. Since there is only a 25% chance of a match, you should bank the cord blood of each individual child if you have the means.
The therapuetic potential of cord blood continues to grow.  Over the last few years cord blood use has expanded into an area known as regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is the science of living cells being used to potentially regenerate or facilitate the repair of cells damaged by disease, genetics, injury or simply aging. Research is underway with the hope that cord blood stem cells may prove beneficial in young patients facing life-changing medical conditions once thought untreatable – such as autism and cerebral palsy.
Our writing team consists of professionals who work with pregnant and birthing women, as well as new parents, all year round. We’re not just bloggers or journalists. We’re industry professionals who love what we do!
Cord blood is always accessible – if you pay to have it stored in a private blood bank. The cord blood is reserved for your baby and your own family; it can’t be accessed or used by anyone else. As long as you keep paying for the storage, the cord blood is available indefinitely.
One of the primary reasons why parents are choosing to bank cord blood is because of a history of family illness. Everything from metabolic disorders to immune system problems to common childhood cancers are all being treated with cord blood stem cells, making them an invaluable resource for your family.
Your baby’s cord blood could be a valuable resource for another family.  From foundations to non-profit blood banks and medical facilities, there are numerous locations that will collect, process, and use the stem cells from your baby’s cord blood to treat other people.
Private (commercial) cord banks will store the donated blood for use by the donor and family members only. They can be expensive. These banks charge a fee for processing and an annual fee for storage.
Why should you consider donating the cord blood to a public bank? Simply because, besides bringing a new life into the world, you could be saving an individual whose best chance at life is a stem cell transplant with your baby’s donated cord blood. This can only happen if you donate and if your baby is a close enough match for a patient in need. If you chose to reserve the cord blood for your family, then siblings who have the same parents have a 25% chance of being an exact match.
Just like other blood donations, there is no cost to the donor of cord blood. If you do not choose to store your baby’s blood, please consider donating it. Your donation could make a difference in someone else’s life.
For these and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and many physicians do not recommend private cord blood banking except as “directed donations” in cases where a family member already has a current need or a very high potential risk of needing a bone marrow transplant. In all other cases, the AAP has declared the use of cord blood as “biological insurance” to be “unwise.” [Read the AAP’s news release at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/archives/julcord.htm ]






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