Many parents now bank their children's cord blood, but all hope never to have to use it. If they do, it's because their children are battling a life-threatening condition.
Cord-blood banking has been around for several decades, and is growing in use throughout the United States. Parents can opt to donate their babies' cord blood—which contains hematopoietic stem cells that can form red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets—or store it for private use.
The number of illnesses and conditions that can be treated by umbilical cord stem cells continues to rise. According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), about 20 percent of US transplant patients, including both children and adults, currently receive cord blood transplants. Worldwide, there were 2,000 cord blood transplants in 2006, and the NMDP projects there will be 10,000 cord blood transplants per year worldwide by 2015.
The idea of banking your child's cord blood is one that scientists say may hold promise—but probably only many years in the future, unless it's medically indicated because of family medical history.
What It's Used For
Emerging therapies—for treating cerebral palsy, type I diabetes, and to regenerate tissue—are incentives for parents to store the cells as biological insurance. So even if your child doesn't need those banked cord blood cells until he's middle-aged, that "insurance" is still valid. "There is no expiration date on cord blood properly stored," says Dr. Machi Scaradavou, MD, medical director of the National Cord Blood Program, a public bank. "We're still using units collected in 1993."