July 9, 2014

Who is able to use the cord blood that a family chooses to donate? That is a question often asked when deciding whether or not to bank your child’s umbilical cord blood. The answer is multi-faceted.

To start, the child whose cord blood is being stored will always be a perfect match for a stem cell transplant using his or her own cord blood. Also, parents to the child whose cord blood is stored will each be a half match to the stem cells, because the child gets half of their genetic makeup from each parent. Additionally, full siblings of the donor have a 1 in 4 chance of being a good match to the cord blood stem cells of his or her brother or sister.

In addition to that, because stem cells from umbilical cord blood are considered immature cells, a person does not necessarily have to be a perfect HLA match to receive a cord blood transplant. Recipients need to match only 4 of 6 HLA markers in the blood to be considered a “match.” Of course, the better the match, the higher the chances of a stem cell transplant being a success. Because of this, even though a sibling has a 25 percent chance of being a perfect match to their brother or sister’s cord blood, it still makes sense to save the blood from all children from a family.

The reason a family would choose to store their baby’s cord blood is for reassurance – comfort knowing that if their child or other family member were to ever develop one of the more than 80 diseases currently treatable with stem cells, that they would be a perfect match (for the child whose blood was donated) or have a high likelihood of matching (such as a parent or full blood sibling.)

Storing your child’s umbilical cord blood is even more important if your family has a history of any of the more than 80 diseases that can be treated with cord blood stem cells because you or a family member would have an increased chance of needing a stem cell transplant in the future.

Also, if your family has a mixed race or ethnically-diverse background, it is very important to store your child’s cord blood in case it is ever needed in the future. It is much harder to find a stem cell match for a person with a diverse background because of the reduced number of minority donors to public cord blood banks. Why take a chance with your future and HOPE that you’d be able to find a match? The best way to guarantee your child or family members are covered and have a chance at a good match would be to store your baby’s cord blood.

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