Should Parents Privately Bank Their Child's Cord Blood?
Expectant parents read about cord blood banking at Lamaze classes or are asked by their obstetrician whether they plan on banking their child's cord blood. Parents are asking themselves whether they should bank their child's cord blood as a lifetime insurance against future health problems. Parents checkout private cord blood bank websites and they read the following claims: (1) cord blood contains stem cells; (2) stem cells have regenerative medicine properties; (3) it's a ONCE in a lifetime chance to save your child's stem cells; (4) the stem cells in cord blood will provide utility for your child's entire life; (5) the stem cells will provide a source of autologous therapy (i.e. -use own cells instead someone else's in contrast to allogeneic therapy from a public cord blood bank) if your child needs them later (e.g. child develops leukemia); and (6) the cord blood is a solution if a family member needs them, too.
There are approximately 20 companies in the US that will privately store your child's cord blood and will make these claims. Many expectant parents will bank their child's cord blood for private use. These private companies will perform 2 services: (1) isolate what's called the total nuclear cells (TNC) from whole cord blood, which represent a fraction of the whole blood (i.e. the red cells are eliminated) and (2) they will store the TNC under liquid nitrogen (deep freeze) for future need. The actual stem cell in the TNC fraction is called a CD34+ hematopoietic stem cell and it represents ~ 1% of the entire TNC cell fraction. That's right! CD34+ cells represent a very small fraction of cells in cord blood. Cord blood banks will charge around $1500-$2000 for initially preparing storing the TNC and charge an annual cost of $100-200/year for maintaining storage.
Private cord blood banks do not manufacture cell therapies or administer treatment themselves. They merely store the TNC fraction and will ship it to any transplant center of a parent's choice and charge parents for the shipping cost. In other words, it's the parent's responsibility to do the leg work after the fact if the child develops a serious illness. Also, the shipping of cord blood must be maintained at -150 degree centigrade to preserve cell viability. Private cord blood banks will claim they differentiate themselves based on how good they are in extracting the highest number of TNC (hence the highest number of CD34+ cells); or whether they are certified; or whether they cost less; and whether they will store other birth products such as the placenta and umbilical cord.
If parents are interested in banking their child's cord blood, we strongly encourage the reader to review the other two posts: