Expectant parents must make many decisions before their baby is born. Some are related to how a nursery is decorated or whether Grandma will be invited into the delivery room, whereas other decisions require a bit more research and discussion. One of those is whether to store their baby’s cord blood after delivery.
An infant’s umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which can be used to fight leukemia and autoimmune diseases. Researchers also believe these stem cells may one day be used to treat a variety of other conditions, including autism, heart disease and traumatic spine injuries.
Sharp HealthCare has partnered with StemCyte, a leader in cord blood banking, to offer parents the option to collect and save their infant’s cord blood stem cells for potential future personal use; to treat a biological sibling or parent with a disease; or to donate to others. There are some fees associated with private use storage. However, there is no charge for public banking.
While the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation reports that less than 0.04 percent of babies will later benefit from their banked cord blood, Dr. Ziainia says parents might choose to store cord blood if there is a family history of an illness that can be treated with the cord-derived stem cells.
One primary advantage of cord blood is that the stem cells can be modified to treat a variety of diseases. Furthermore, harvesting and collecting the cord blood is not painful to infant or mother. Once collected, it is tested and frozen to be ready for immediate use if a medical need arises.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently encourages cord blood donation to a bank for public use. Testing for genetic and infectious diseases is performed on the donated cord blood and parents will be notified if any abnormalities are found.
“If parents choose not to store their baby’s cord blood in a private bank, I encourage them to donate to a public bank,” says Dr. Ziainia. “The stem cells can help others and be used for research.”