I feel that the issue of banking stem cells must be revisited because it has been a while since I last blogged about it and there is a new crop of prospective parents out there pondering what it is all about. I get a lot of questions about banking cord blood.
Cord blood is collected at the time of delivery. After the cord is cut; before the placenta is expelled. It is this blood from the umbilical cord that contains stem cells. We all make stem cells, however, it is these fresh, embryonic stem cells that offer the best hope for the new field of regenerative medicine. The cells are capable of "becoming" cells of any type and function, which can be used for transplantation to cure lethal diseases. Already, they are being used for about ninety known diseases and there are hopes for many more on the horizon.
Sometimes the cells can be used for the baby, if God forbid, they are needed in the future. Sometimes they provide the best match for family members in need. Regenerative medicine is hoping ( and banking ) on these cells to usher in a completely new way to treat disease.
The cells that are available right after your baby is born are not used for experimentation. They are banked privately for you and your family, donated for the public at-large or discarded. If you choose to bank privately for your family, you must contract, in advance of the baby's birth, with a company that will charge you and keep these cells just for you and no one else. They have payment and gift plans.
If you want to donate these cells, you can never get them back if your family may need then at some time in the future. They will become available for anyone who might need them . Of course, if you choose to do neither, they will become medical waste.
There is much information on the internet to help you decide after you have spoken to your provider. You can see what diseases are already being successfully treated and also see what research is being done. You may call these various companies to ask specific questions that you may have about their facilities, their statistics for transplantation and their rates. If banking cord blood isn't an option for you, you can look into donation on the internet as well.
Be sure to include your family members in this discussion because they may decide that they want to contribute to the purchase of the banking services for the whole family's use. This is the only opportunity that you will have to harvest and bank embryonic stem cells from this pregnancy.