Expert advice on storing your baby’s cord blood

The promising field of stem cell research is prompting more parents store their newborns’ umbilical cord blood. Cord blood is rich in blood-forming stem cells and is cur­rently used in transplants for some patients with leukemia, lymphoma, immune deficiencies and inherited metabolic disorders. Most infusions come from unrelated donors, partly because of concerns that receiving one’s own defective cells may cause the same diseases to return.

Description: If you want to be able to access your baby’s stem cells, go private.

If you want to be able to access your baby’s stem cells, go private.

Research shows that cord blood may be able to safely regenerate other types of cells in the body, fuel­ing optimism that doctors may one day routinely use a patient’s own stored cord blood to treat such con­ditions as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and diabetes. “There are 80 diseases that can be treated with stem cells,” says Morey Kraus, chief scientific officer for Cambridge, Mass.-based ViaCord.

Parents can also choose to bank a child’s umbilical cord tissue. The cord contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can create structural and connective tissue. They can also be easily repro­duced in a lab and don’t have to be matched as closely to the recipient as other stem cells do.

Description: Should We Bank Our Baby's Cord Blood?

Should We Bank Our Baby's Cord Blood?

Although it will take about 10 years or longer for MSCs to be commonly used in medical treatment, these cells show the most promise for treating inflam­matory disease and tissue dam­age,” says Jeffrey M. Karp, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and a principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Research on MSCs is exploding: There are more than 200 clinical trials in progress worldwide.

If you’re considering private banking, do your homework:

Ask around

Seek advice from your friends and physician.

Check credentials

How long has the bank been in business? Is it profitable? Does it have experi­ence with successful transplants? Is it accredited by a group like the American Association of Blood Banks? Some of the bigger pri­vate banks include Cord Blood Registry, ViaCord, Cryo-Cell and LifebankUSA.

Compare costs

Collection fees typically top out at $3,000; payment plans and gift registries are avail­able. Storage generally costs $125 to $250 a year

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