The developments that continue to be made in stem cell research are exciting. Patients with cancer, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies have received the benefits of cord blood stem cells. As stem cell therapies continue to evolve, more conditions will be added to the list of successful treatments.
Patients requiring a stem cell transplant can receive stem cells from bone marrow, circulating blood, or cord blood. The first two options are available in all healthy adults, but cord blood can only be collected and stored at birth. It is much easier to match transplant patients with cord blood than with the two sources of adult donors. But there are challenges to finding stem cell matches for certain populations who need it. It’s much harder for ethnic minorities and people of mixed race to be matched with donated cells.
There are choices when it comes to the decision to bank cord blood. You can donate your infant’s cord blood to a public bank for anyone who needs it to use, or you can store it with a private bank for your own family’s future use. Once you donate your cord blood to a public bank, you have no ownership rights to it. That means if your child or family member is in need of the benefits of cord blood, there is no guarantee that your children would be able to access those cells.
Most public banks have a larger Caucasian volume of cord blood units than any other type. That’s why private banking is especially valuable for families who may have difficulty finding matches using a public bank. It is more challenging for ethnic minorities and people of mixed race to find matches in a public cord blood bank.
Mixed race families have a greater chance of taking advantage of the benefit of cord blood banking if they choose a private cord blood bank. They own the cells, and their full rights to use it are preserved. A child is always a perfect match to his or her own cells, and a strong match for family members.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that nearly 18,000 children and adults might benefit from a potentially life-saving bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant every year. Only 60% of patients looking for a transplant find a match. Expectant parents of every race should learn about cord blood banking and decide if it’s the right choice for their family.