October 06, 2014
Cord blood banking is a wise choice for families with a high risk, or definite intended need for matching stem cells. But who is considered high risk? A family could be considered high risk for any number of reasons.
For one, it may be because a child in the family has already been diagnosed with a disease that is treatable with a stem cell transplant but, for whatever reason, his or her own stem cells are not available or not a suitable treatment option. This could be because that child’s own cord blood stem cell were not saved at birth or it could be because they have a genetic disorder that would make their own stem cells unsuitable for transplant. In this case, a donor transplant would be necessary. A related donor always has the best chance of being a match, especially when it comes to siblings, which have a 1-in-4 chance of being a perfect match to each other. But even if they are not a perfect match, siblings are often at least partial matches for each other and therefore may be suitable for cord blood transplants. Because of the young nature of cord blood stem cells, an exact match is not required, though it is definitely preferred, in order to avoid complications. Many times, if expectant families are in a situation where a sibling would potentially benefit from the baby’s stem cells, they will choose to bank their newborn’s cord blood to help treat his or her sibling.
Another possible reason a family would be considered high risk is if they have a family history of any of the genetic diseases currently treatable with cord blood, whether anyone in the immediate family has been diagnosed or not. For these families, the peace of mind in knowing that you have a plan (should the disease surface) is reason enough to consider cord blood banking for all their children.
In addition, a family considered high risk (and that would benefit from private cord blood banking) is a family with a mixed or diverse racial background. This is because should anyone in the family ever require a stem cell transplant and they have not stored their cord blood, they would have to rely on a bone marrow transplant. Unlike cord blood stem cells, those from bone marrow are more mature and must be a perfect 6-of-6 HLA match to be considered compatible. Now, if no one in the immediate family is a perfect match for that person, then they would have to search for a match among the general population. Considering that the majority of registered bone marrow donors in the national data banks are Caucasian, a person with a different racial background is going to have a harder time finding a matching donor. Searching for a compatible match is a time-consuming task. And usually when a transplant it needed, time is of the essence.
Cord blood banking could provide these high risk families with the protection and knowledge that they are covered. It gives them a back-up plan and, most of all, a genetic match when they need it most.