Freezing Cord Blood and Stem Cells – Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Published: June 2, 2004  |  Source: home.businesswire.com
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PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–June 3, 2004–The mere mention of stem cell research can stimulate a heated discussion among the medical and non-medical crowd alike. However, there is a non-controversial method of collecting stem cells, via placental and umbilical cord blood from newborns. There are even several companies advocating the saving and freezing of those stem cells for future family use, but the question for expectant parents remains, should they do it? When does it make sense to save and store cord blood and at what expense?

“I am asked all the time if expectant parents should save and freeze their baby’s cord blood. My answer is yes — and no. Perhaps Yes, in the rare case where there is a family history of a specific illness which could be treated with cord blood stem cells, or if a cord blood transplant could help a sibling suffering from specific types of cancer. However, there are many instances in which cord blood couldn’t or shouldn’t be used, even in those cases involving the infant himself. The odds that the average baby will ever use its banked cord blood have been estimated at 4 in 10000 or .04%,” states Dr. Curt Civin, Samuelson Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and medical advisory board member of the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research.

Dr. Civin adds that the money spent on freezing and storing cord blood for the average family, which can range from $1,200 – $1,800 for the first year and $100 every year thereafter, might be better put into a savings bond for college.

“On the other hand, I often tell expectant parents that harvesting their baby’s cord blood could actually save the life of another child suffering from leukemia or other bone marrow illness and therefore donating that blood could have an immediate and positive impact on the life of an unrelated child,” states Dr. Civin.

Public banks for the storage of cord blood have increased dramatically in recent years thanks in large part to the American Red Cross. And, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, there are more than 80 locations across the country from Alabama to Washington.

While only a few thousand cord blood transplants have been performed since 1989, the list of diseases that can be treated through this method grows each day thanks to dedicated scientists around the globe. Currently research with cord blood stem cells is going on involving AIDS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, MS, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury and stroke, although it will likely be many years before these basic research result in clinical treatments.

Currently many children and even some adults could benefit from donated cord blood. So if you are looking to put your baby’s cord blood to good use, visit www.marrow.org and find a hospital near you.

To weigh in on this issue and see what others are thinking, visit www.kimmel.org and click on the survey button on the right hand side of the screen. The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research provides grants each year to further the careers of some of the youngest and brightest minds doing cancer research today. Since 1997 the Foundation has supported 100 cancer research scientists.

The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research
Risa B. Hoag, 845/627-3000