Every parent delivering their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in an up-market hospital in India today is told by their doctor to go ahead and store them. They made many promises about how valuable these stem cells are; how these stem cells can be used to replenish any kind of cell in the body in case the baby has a problem in the future; what makes these stem cells so valuable; and why they have only a limited window of opportunity at birth. The marketing game is that it is a very cost-effective investment because it could make a difference to the health of their child in the event that they will ever develop a medical problem in the future.
Reconstitution of bone marrow (transplantation) may be a life-saving procedure in a number of genetic, hematological, immunological, metabolic, and oncological disorders. The usual sources of hematopoietic progenitor cells to achieve this goal are allogeneic (related or unrelated) or autologous (self) bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. If autologous stem cells are not available or cannot be used, securing stem cells from an HLA-matched sibling is the best option for successful reconstitution therapy.
A number of private banks have been established to encourage parents to bank the cord blood of their children for their own self-use or for a family member’s direct donor allogeneic use if the need arises. Cord blood transplants have been successfully performed in adults using multiple cryopreserved units from separate donors, and the approach is currently being investigated as a strategy to increase the dose of cells for transplantation in a single recipient.
However, you must be thinking about donating your baby’s cord blood to a public bank. In that case, you have three choices –
- You throw your cord blood and lose the opportunity of treating diseases.
- You donate your cord blood and fail to have the access of your own stem cells
- Finally, just store your cord blood in the private bank and get some additional benefits from us.
Doctors should be aware of the unsubstantiated claims made to future parents by private cord blood banks that promise to insure infants or family members from serious diseases in the future through the use of cord blood stem cells. Although not standard of care, guided cord blood banking should be encouraged when there is knowledge of a full sibling in the family with a medical condition (malignant or genetic) that might benefit from cord blood transplantation.