Banking Cord Blood

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 3:32pm

Parents are now being encouraged to store their baby's umbilical cord blood.

Like many parents Cara and Robert Price anticipated banking baby Maya's umbilical cord blood just in case it's needed someday.

"Everyone's interested in it, it's just a matter of accessing it or having the financial resources to be able to do it," Cara says.

Sticker shock originally stopped the prices.

Private banks can charge thousands of dollars for collection and storage.

Fortunately they were able to store Maya's cord blood for free using a special kit provided by a public bank at Duke University Medical Center.

"Moms should know that donating their baby's cord blood could save a life," says Duke's Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg. "That's a great thing to be able to do with something that used to be discarded as medical waste."

Dr. Kurtzberg says cord blood contains special stem cells that can be used as a substitute for bone marrow for those with otherwise incurable blood cancers and other rare genetic diseases.

The diseases are so rare that it's unlikely parents like the prices will ever use their baby's cord blood.

In fact, it's more likely that another family will.

Dr. Kurtzberg says unrelated donors are often better cord blood transplant matches.

"Typically a baby's own cord blood would still be at risk for that cancer or would carry that genetic disease so it couldn't be used for that baby," she explains.

Unlike private banks, public cord blood donations are not held for the donor family and can be used for any patient found to be a match.

"It's the best part about the whole deal is that it's helping somebody somewhere at sometime," Cara says.

If not for baby Maya, then for future generations.

No one knows how long cord blood can be stored before expiring, but Dr. Kurtzberg said transplants have been done successfully with cord blood stored for 18 years.

Parents interested in donating their baby's cord blood to duke's program can get more information at www.cancer.duke.edu/ccbb.
 

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