If you ever wonder about the sudden interest of people in cord blood banking, it’s a trend that’s peaked along with the interest in stem cell technology. Cord blood banking involves taking the remaining blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn, and having it stored for future use. Read more about cord blood banking.
This blood is full of stem cells, which have the potential to change into just about any cell there is—making it a possible lifesaver in the event that the child, or a family member, contracts a disease.
Just as there are clearly advantages to this technology, there are also disadvantages of its use.
The Pros and Cons of Cord Blood Banking
Here’s a quick rundown of umbilical cord blood banking pros and cons.
1. Pros: Helps Recover From Chemotherapy.
Stem cell treatment from cord blood can help people recover from various cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Treating cancer can require very aggressive methods, including radiation, which have the tendency to kill off healthy cells along with the cancerous ones.
Using the stem cells from cord blood will stimulate cell growth and introduce new healthy cells back into the body, speeding up the recovery process for those who suffer from the nasty side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
2. Cons: It Can Be Costly.
Storing cord blood can be quite expensive.
Most cord blood banks are run privately, and can come with a hefty initial processing fee as well as an annual storage fee—which can feel a bit like a sunk cost for a parent who’s paying for it, especially if no foreseeable use for it in the near future.
3. Pros: Treatment of Fatal Diseases.
Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat a variety of rare, otherwise-fatal diseases.
Apart from various forms of cancer, stem cell treatment has been used with positive results on those suffering from immunodeficient disorders, thalassemia, Krabbe disease, leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
4. Cons: Most Diseases Are Not Common
Most of the diseases which cord blood treatment can help with just aren’t that common, so the odds of you using your baby’s stored cord blood aren’t that high.
It’s clearly something to look into if you have a history of cancer in your family, but if your family tree is otherwise healthy, you may just be rolling the dice with cord blood storage. The chances that you will ever have to make use of the stem cells in that cord blood are one in 2,700—not that small, but not that big as well. In the meanwhile, you’ll be paying for storage.
5. Pros: Stem Cell Treatment
For those seeking stem cell treatment, cord blood stem cells are the best possible match.
Stem cells obtained from other parts of the body, such as bone marrow, may be rejected by the body of the person receiving them—this risk is minimized as stem cells from cord blood are immature, and thus more likely to conform with a body that is primed to defend itself against foreign substances. This is especially valuable to those from ethnic minorities, as they have difficulties finding stem cell matches.
6. Cons: It’s Shelf Life Has Limits
Cord blood stem cells have a limited shelf life.
Cord blood stem cells remain viable for up to ten years—beyond that period, scientists and doctors aren’t really sure if they’ll still be effective when they’re taken out of storage.
7. Pros: Donate To Help
If you aren’t planning on using your baby’s cord blood, you can donate it as well.
There are some public cord blood banks now, so if shelf life is an issue, why not help someone else in the meantime and spare them the agony and expense of treatment for a rare disease, by donating cord blood stem cells you don’t have any plans to use?
8. Cons: Limited To Certain Diseases
It will still depend on the disease which you seek to treat to determine if those cord blood cells are really the best treatment option.
The problem with certain genetic disorders is that if it involves the body making the wrong cells, replanting stem cells that potentially still have that genetic defect will not treat the disease, so the stem cells have to come from a donor, not your baby’s cord blood.
9. Pros: Progress in Research
Storing your cord blood for research purposes will enable scientists to make more progress towards treatments.
Donating that cord blood to a public bank will allow many others to use it, often for the purposes of seeing if stem cell treatment will make a difference in their condition. Currently doctors and scientists are also trying out cord blood stem cells as treatment for sickle cell anemia, diabetes and spine injuries, so even if you aren’t going to use it, consider donating it and contributing to a possible breakthrough.
10. Cons: Still Not A Universal Treatment Option
Stem cell therapy is not a cure-all.
While stem cells have many amazing properties—cord blood stem cells, in particular—is not a guarantee that it’s the most effective treatment. Those availing of it should know the realistic chances of how cord blood stem cells really will affect their recovery.
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