An increasing number of parents are storing stem cells from their baby’s cord. Hopefully these will not be needed, but if your child develops leukaemia or any other disease requiring a bone marrow transplant, stem cells could save his life.
What Are Stem Cells?
The building blocks of your immune system. They can turn themselves into white blood cells which combat infection, red blood cells which carry oxygen around your system, and platelets which help the blood to clot.
What Are They Used For?
Some cancers destroy vital cells in the blood and immune system. The treatment commonly used is a bone marrow transplant which contains stem cells. However, a donor is required, a match is difficult to obtain and transplanting stem cells stored from birth is much easier, and matching is not a problem.
Any Other Uses?
Research is at an early stage, but there is hope that one day stem cells could cure other diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, various cancers and spinal injury – you may recall that the late Christopher Reeve (Superman actor) hoped that stem cell research could one day enable him to walk again.
So far about 5-6000 stem cell transplants have been performed worldwide, most involving young children.
So Why Isn’t It Routinely Collected?
As is often the case, the establishment is dragging it’s heels. In the UK the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says: “Routine collection of cord blood and stem cells cannot be recommended at this time because of the insufficient scientific base to support such practice.” However, a national cord blood bank has been started and four National Health Service Hospitals are asking parents for permission to harvest blood from cords at births in their hospitals.
The UK’s Department of Health has also given full accreditation to Future Health Technologies, a privately run company that will, for a price, store cord blood for 25 years. Future Health provide the kit to collect the blood at the birth, although you will need the co-operation of the medical staff.
In the USA, cord blood bank Cord Blood Registry has already stored more than 250,000 vials of stem cells.
Of course you hope the cord blood will never be required, but if it is, for the price of a holiday you could save the life of your child.
For further research, type ‘cord blood’ in a search engine.