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Cord Blood Controversy – Choosing Private or Public Storage


Cord blood which was considered a waste at one point of time, is now looked as a life-saving entity by many. Many parents decide to preserve cord blood, which is rich in stem cells, and is used to treat more than seventy different diseases such as leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, neuroblastoma, genetic diseases, and immune deficiencies.

Controversy has risen in the recent years as to whether donors should go for public cord blood banks or the private ones. There are several factors which contribute to these sentiments. Some physicians do not recommend donors choose private banks because many of these banks are not standardized.  The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) points the fact that private cord blood banks are beneficial only for those parents whose relative needs a current transplant, but benefit no one else. Private storage is recommended for a family that has a medical history of metabolic disorder. Alternatively the AAP suggests that parents donate to public cord blood banks where cord blood can be made available to many people for treating various diseases. One of the primary reasons for such recommendations is that around ten thousand people are diagnosed with diseases each year and only public cord blood banks provide cord blood globally to any patient who need be treated with cell transplant. Private cord blood banks will provide cord blood only to donors (for their use or their families) who store cord blood for a fee.

Another major reason for physicians not encouraging private cord blood banks is because of the marketing and advertising strategies used by some of these banks. The private banks target every expectant couple and convince them that they are potentially providing a life saving opportunity to their families. This sort of emotional reasoning has worked in many parents to go in for private banks which stores cord blood exclusively for the donor’s use. Even doctors who are convinced by the stem- cell advances encourage parents (who can afford to pay that money) to opt for private banks so that cord blood can be used to save their child’s future or another family member. But there is no correct numbers to quote about the risk of a child needing stem- cell in the future. The APC and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) studies reveal that numbers would fall anywhere between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 200000, whereas some the private banks have advertised numbers as low as 1 in 2700.

As private cord blood banking is expensive, parents should research which one is best suited for their family’s needs. Some things they should check before going with private cord blood banks are whether the bank is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks, the number of cord blood units it stores, and the number of successful transplants it has conducted with the stored samples and the way it is stored (whether in single unit or small units).

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