We say The Globe and Mail don’t understand family cord blood banking.
The Globe and Mail recently wrote an article in which they discussed umbilical cord blood banking in Canada. The article focuses on how cord blood donation can be beneficial to meet the demands of the public who are in need of a stem cell transplant. The article goes on to describe family cord blood banking as being for the “privileged” and how “public health services should allow care for all, not just the privileged. And so it should be with cord blood banks.”
Public banks offer a wonderful but limited service.
While The Globe and Mail discuss the benefits of having a diverse supply of cord blood samples available for public use in transplant medicine, donated cord blood samples are only available for transplant medicine or research, they fail to discuss the benefits of regenerative medicine and the importance of autologous (transplants which use the patient’s own stem cells) stem cell samples for these treatments.
There are many benefits to private cord blood banking.
Family cord blood banking plays an incredibly important role in the world of stem cell banking. Autologous stem cell transplants are used for many illnesses. The Globe and Mail fail to mention how autologous stem cell transplants have been used to successfully treat numerous illnesses including many autoimmune diseases and even cerebral palsy.
Family banking is also important for families with a rare tissue type (such as mixed heritage or ethnic minorities) where a suitable stem cell match could be difficult to find in a public registry. Family banking is also important for families where cancers are common, a stem cell match is more likely to be found within the family unit than a public bank.
While family banks do charge to store cord blood it is important to note that the family has full ownership of the cord blood sample and the sample can be released for use in clinical trials should the family need and wish to do so. Donated cord blood samples are owned by the cord blood bank and should a family need to retrieve their cells at a later date, it would not be possible.
It is also important to note that while family banks do charge a fee for the service they provide, where an existing medical need is present and cord blood could be used in the treatment, many private banks will offer altruistic collections for these families so they can benefit from stem cell therapies.
Cord blood banking is about finding the right balance.
The Globe and Mail failed to recognise that both private and public cord blood banking is important. Public cord blood offers the opportunity for those in need of a stem cell transplant with donated stem cells the chance to find a match and receive the treatment they need. These cord blood units do come at a cost, with cord blood samples in the UK costing approximately £30,000 per unit.
Families who store their baby’s cord blood ensure their baby has a perfect stem cell match for use in a more diverse range of medicinal therapies, while also increasing the chances of other family members finding a stem cell match should they ever need it.
The Globe and Mail really missed the point with this article. The focus should be on encouraging women to find out about the cord blood banking options available to them and making the right choice for their family with the aim to reduce the amount of precious cord blood being condemned as clinical waste. After all, this is an opportunity which only presents itself once in a lifetime and cannot be changed, such an important decision should be made by considering all of the options available; only then can an informed choice be made.