Cord blood storage frequently asked questions

Why bank cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood is rich in the same hematopoietic stem cells that form the basis for bone marrow transplants. Hematopoietic stem cells are the building blocks of red blood cells, platelets and the immune system.

Every year, 17,000 people in North America require a stem cell transplant for life-threatening diseases. To combat the shortage of available bone marrow donors, physicians have started using umbilical cord blood as an alternative source for stem cells.

How is cord blood collected?

Following a baby’s birth, the umbilical cord normally is clamped and separated from the newborn. After this occurs, the physician or midwife removes the blood from the umbilical vein. The whole process is painless for mother and baby. This process may be done at any facility, using supplies provided by Family Link and Norton Healthcare.

How is cord blood stored?

The blood is sent to the Norton Healthcare Blood and Marrow Transplant Laboratory and cryopreserved (frozen in vapor phase nitrogen) using established procedures and validated techniques. The cord blood is stored and reserved for the exclusive use of the donor or donor’s family.

How long can cord blood be stored?

Since the use of cord blood is relatively new, there is no definitive research on how long these cells can be stored; however, based on information from bone marrow cryopreservation, scientists believe that the cells will remain viable for at least 20 years, if not longer.

How much does cord blood banking cost?

The cost of cryopreservation is $1,650, with a $125 annual cost for continued storage. Cord blood collection and storage generally are not covered by health insurance.

There may be a blood collection fee charged separately by the physician. This should be discussed before enrollment in the program.

How is cord blood used?

Intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancers and certain blood diseases require a patient to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The healthy stem cells from the stored umbilical cord blood may be used to “reseed” a depleted blood system and rebuild it.

For someone needing a bone marrow transplant from someone else, a matching sibling’s cord blood could be a transplant option. This would eliminate the need to perform a bone marrow harvest — a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia.

When no other family members match, the process of finding an unrelated bone marrow donor can be very difficult, frustrating and expensive. At any given time, an average of 3,000 patients are searching for a compatible bone marrow donor in the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. In addition, when a bone marrow transplant is allogenic — meaning from a donor — there is a risk of graft versus host disease. This is a reaction in which the transplanted cells attack the recipient. With umbilical cord blood stem cells, the likelihood of having these adverse reactions is greatly decreased.

When should parents enroll for cord blood banking?

The ideal time to enroll in the Family Link program is 90 days or more before the baby’s due date. It’s not too late to enroll two to three weeks before the expected arrival, but keep in mind the collection must be scheduled to ensure supplies are available.

What can cord blood be used to treat?

Stem cells can be used in the treatment of a variety of major diseases and serious medical conditions, including cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma; solid tumors; sickle cell disease; rare forms of anemia; and Hurler syndrome.

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