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Cord Blood Banking and Cord Tissue Banking: A Very Important Distinction

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There are many companies out there bombarding parents with umbilical cord blood & tissue storage options.  Cord blood/tissue storage means that the blood from baby’s umbilical cord is stored in case its properties are needed for future use.  Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which are potentially useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants

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By, Kathleen Hager, RN, BSN and Let Mommy Sleep staff

There are many companies out there bombarding parents with umbilical cord blood & tissue storage options.  Cord blood/tissue storage means that the blood from baby’s umbilical cord is stored in case its properties are needed for future use.  Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which are potentially useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants.   Below are the facts about each type of banking.

Cord Blood Banking

In the pre-natal marketing machine, cord donation centers usually do not mention a very important option and free option —public cord banking (www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org).   The fact is that banking cord blood privately is usually a waste for two reasons:

  1. because if the child has a certain disease, chances are good the cord blood is infected as well.
  2. Most children never need stem cell transplants.

Many believe it is better to contribute healthy cord blood to public banks because the chances of a match from this very large pool are much greater.   Therefore the more blood contributed to the public bank, the more children who are helped, so the chances of a match for your child are great anytime.

Cord Tissue Banking

While to storage process and reasoning is similar to blood banking,  cord tissue banking is a very different scenario:

According to an article from Oxford Journals, umbilical tissue stem cells were used to generate cardiovascular tissue in just 28 days. Another article states, “In vitro fabrication of tissue-engineered human pulmonary conduits was feasible utilizing human umbilical cord cells and a biomimetic culture environment”. Clearly, saving baby’s umbilical cord can produce some life-saving tissues! Should parents consider public banking for their baby’s umbilical cord tissue?

Many parents wish to donate their child’s cord tissue to help save another child from leukemia and other types of cancers. Unfortunately, there are so few public blood banks that collect cord blood and tissue, that it is nearly impossible to donate cord tissue, according to WebMD.com. This was confirmed when I found only 3 possible hospital facilities that collect and donate in our Virginia/Maryland area at bethematch.org.

Private banking for your own family’s use seems to be the only option out there for families who choose to have cord tissue stored, which defeats the whole purpose of donating and helping other children. The price of building public banks is so high – between $1 and $2 million to get started, so few banks are able to make it.  Private banking of both cord blood + tissue is expensive – about $2,790 per sample and $260 annually, and should be encouraged in families who have a transplantable disease, such as sickle-cell anemia or leukemia because the risk is higher in these families. Do note that, in cases like this cord tissue banking is not for the child who has the tissue stored, it is for siblings.

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