Does saving Cord Blood really save lives?

With a baby on the way my wife and I are looking into all kinds of topics from where to put the baby room to should we save the cord blood?

I have been particularly interested in the cord blood issue because I do believe stem cells have a solid scientific\medical use.

Does anyone know the dope on this? I will say at first I thought it was cost prohibitive, but when I researched it further I see that it really isn’t.

So, Questions:

Does saving the cord truly give a child a ‘leg-up’ if something horrible goes wrong like childhood Leukemia or later in life if they get Alzheimer’s?

What about the cryostasis? Does something frozen in cryostasis really retain all of it’s properties over time? More Q’s to come.

And more of a IMHO Poll, anyone out there save the cord from the birth of their baby?

I would be interested to know how often cord blood is actually used. It seems like a terrible waste of resources. I believe $3,500 is an average total cost, assuming storage until the child turns 21.

The leading company we are looking at is $900 to start and $100 a year for life…or until the kid can pay for it themselves.

It’s like catastrophic insurance. You alone have to determine your cost vs. risk tolerance threshold. Considering that it’s benefits are only in catastrophic incidents, I would suspect that the number of incidents that the cord blood is used after being stored is a relatively low occurence.

Looking at this site, it seems 10,000 children per year are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. Approximately 1/3 of these cases are some form of leukemia. I don’t know if cord blood can be used in the treatment of all types of leukemia.

What are those odds, 5 out of 100,000? 3 out of 100,000? I guess that’s enough to give it serious consideration, but I doubt it makes sense strictly economically.

I think for some people it is an economic decision. I think for others it’s an insurance policy - if it works. For us, we figure the odds don’t outweigh the benefits. If something catastrophic happens and stem cells could mean the difference between life or death the $100 a year is worth it.

I’d like to know of cases where it saves lives if possible, or anecdotes are fine too.

My wife and I just went through this discussion too. We decided on donation to a cord blood bank instead of paying to store it. One consideration is that many childhood leukemias are genetic in origin and it may not be a good idea to use those same cells in a marrow transplant. Also there must be a sufficient volume of blood to be useful. Be sure to find out from the for-profit folks if you have to pay for storage of a small volume of blood that wouldn’t be usable in the future.

We stored (are storing?) our son’s cord blood. There’s probably some stem cells in there that might turn out to be handy in the future, maybe for something like cloning replacement organs. Seemed worth the expense.

What’s this about volume of blood? I have not heard of it before…Do you have a link? The people we are going through are for-profit…

The only current use for cord blood is as a substitute for bone marrow transplantation for treatment of diseases like leukemia. Even then, in most cases it’s not a good idea to re-transplant a patient’s own cord blood, because that cord blood likely contains pre-leukemic cells. But it is just fine to use one sibling’s banked cord blood to treat the other sibling’s leukemia.

Any other treatments are entirely experimental. It will be many years (if not decades) before cord blood therapy is approved, much less common.

So to be realistic, there’s only a very remote chance that the cord blood you store now will provide any tangible medical benefit to your child.

I’m not sure if there’s any scientific value to storing the cord blood, unless the cord bank you use also provides samples to researchers.

The only real use I can forsee is that perhaps many years from now, your child might have a disease where you can enroll them in early medical trials using the banked cord blood.

We too have been storing our youngest son’s cord blood. He’s 9 now and on the Autism spectrum, and there has been some research regarding stem cell therapy that is starting to look a little promising, so we shall see in the coming years if this really pays off.

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about this with my friend, who is a leuk/transplant/haematology nurse and childhood cancer survivor herself, but I do recall her saying that a) she was damn lucky her brother was a match, because when she became ill only her own stored cells were likely to have saved her otherwise, b) she’s treated several patients over the past 8 years of her career who would have lived if they had stored cells for a transplant (or if a match could be found). These conversations with her are usually in the context of what the current state of treatment is and what changes have occurred since her illness, or her bitching about losing a patient she’s gotten close to, so I’m afraid I can’t give you more specific answers.

But from the point of view of the nurse treating the patient, it is absolutely worth it to have saved your child’s cord blood. As for the odds of your child becoming that patient and the money spent…I don’t know.

American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t think it’s worth it:

“Cord blood donation should be discouraged when cord blood stored in a bank is to be directed for later personal or family use, because most conditions that might be helped by cord blood stem cells already exist in the infant’s cord blood (ie, premalignant changes in stem cells). Physicians should be aware of the unsubstantiated claims of private cord blood banks made to future parents that promise to insure infants or family members against serious illnesses in the future by use of the stem cells contained in cord blood. Although not standard of care, directed cord blood banking should be encouraged when there is knowledge of a full sibling in the family with a medical condition (malignant or genetic) that could potentially benefit from cord blood transplantation.”

I don’t have a specific link, but from what I’ve read and what I was told by the donation bank rep (possibly biased) there is a minimum volume of blood (or more specifically a minimum number of cells) needed to be used at a later time. When your baby is born, the collection folks may not be able to get a sufficient volume of blood from his/her placenta, however the for-profit folks may still store whatever they get and charge you for it even if it is only a few drops (theoretically, in the future, that may be enough but right now it isn’t).

It still all comes back to cost v benefit for you. I think the general consensus now is that paying to bank your baby’s blood for future personal use is not worth it for the above reasons, but no one knows what advances in the future may make it a good idea. For instance, if you child develops type 1 diabetes in 15 years a few of her own stem cells may be all that’s needed to fix her pancreas. But for the diseases that are currently treated with cord blood transplantation, you would be better off with a sibling or anonymous matched donor.

IF (and that’s a big if) it helps kids with autism in the near future, then the odds of it being beneficial are now increased to near 1 in 150 and would definitely make sense economically.

If it could help with nearsightedness, then the odds of it being beneficial are about 1 in 3.

Thank you for that link. I honestly think that the private cord blood bank people are cashing in on parents-to-be’s emotions. I remember being pregnant with my first child and having my heart ripped out by seeing all of those ads about how no price was too much to pay for protecting the future health of my unborn child or something really glurgey like that. It totally worked on me for a while, too, and I was convinced that it was something we had to do. (We didn’t do private banking but did do cord blood donation, FTR).

Hmm, lot’s to think about. I see that using the cord blood on yourself for something like leukemia could backfire if the cells in the blood are pre-leukemic. However, I may be a little jaded in that I think medical science is going to make leaps and bounds [already is, we are on that continuum right now]. If 15 years from now the blood could save a life, the $100 a year is worth it to me…

That particular article is a wildly optimistic puff piece, to put it gently. So there’s a gene variant associated with myopia – that’s not surprising. But even given that, and given that someday there will be an effective method of gene therapy, that won’t help one bit with an eye that’s already developed myopia. It’s a problem of physical alignment in the eye, which is ultimately the product of a long process of development. So to cure myopia caused by this gene variant, you’d probably have to genetically engineer your child while it’s still an embryo.

There are very promising gene therapy trials in the eye for some particular kinds of vision problems. But none of these gene therapy methods use cord blood or stem cells of any sort.

I would donate it to someone who might need it. It cured my friend’s leukemia.