The cord blood banking industry first emerged in the early 1990’s with the formation of three private cord blood banks within the United States, Cord Blood Registry, Cryo-Cell, and Viacord, all of which are AABB accredited banks.
Over the past twenty years, cord blood banks have since become common across North American, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Today, major variable within the cord blood banking industry is the divide between private and public cord blood banking.
Public cord blood banks are organziations that store cord blood for future use by any member of the public. Most public cord blood banks participate in the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), through which cord blood is matched to patients that require it.
In comparison, private cord blood banks are for-profit organizations which store cord blood for the exclusive use of the donor or the donor’s relatives. The main benefit of choosing a private cord blood bank is that it ensures that there will be sufficient supplies of cord blood if multiple relatives require transplantation, which can occur in situations where several members of a family are genetically predisposed to a disease.
Key Benefits of Public Cord Blood Donation
Within the medical community, public cord blood banking is mainly supported, because the service facilitates public health and well-being.
However, some medical professionals may recommend private cord blood banking in situations where there is family history of genetic disease, because studies have demonstrated that cord blood stem cells from a genetically related family member result in better transplant outcomes, less transplant-related mortality, and improved long-term survival compared with stem cells from unrelated donors sourced from a public bank.
Additionally, 70% of patients who need a bone marrow transplant are unable to find a matching donor, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. In these situations, cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor is the next best treatment option.
For this reason, the National Marrow Donor Program releases cord blood stem cells rather than bone marrow stem cells for nearly a quarter of their transplants.
Additionally, technologies allowing for ex vivo (outside the body) expansion of cord blood stem cells would address the unmet medical need in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), as discussed in my interview with Dr. Yael Margolin, CEO of Gamida Cell.
Therefore, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a leading cancer advocacy group, states that “cord blood will become the standard for stem cell transplantation in the future.
Finally, public cord blood donation also allows research scientists to have access to cord blood research samples, providing them with tools to investigate new and potentially life-saving therapies. For this reason, donation of a child’s cord blood to a public bank provides a way to preserve stem cells for the general good of others.
Key Benefits of Private Cord Blood Storage
While there are clear benefits to public cord blood donation, there are also many benefits associated with private cord blood storage.
First, privately stored stem cells are genetically unique to a child and his or her family, offering the highest possibility for a successful outcome when transplanted to a biologically-related relative. With private banking, cord blood stem cells belong to a specific family. As such, the cord blood is not available to the general public and cannot be used without the permission of the person from whom they were sourced.
Parents who choose to bank their child’s cord blood stem cells for family use typically do so because they feel that it offers a form of “medical insurance” that guarantees that autologous stem cells will be available if medically required.
Additional reasons to privately bank cord blood stem cells include:
- Cord blood stem cells are an exact biological match for the child from whom they are sourced. Consequently, they eliminate any risk of rejection in transplant to that individual.
- Related stem cells are the preferred choice of transplant by many physicians, as they cause fewer recipient problems. Cord blood stem cells offer a reduction in Graft versus host disease (GVHD), a serious and often fatal transplant complication.
- Privately banked cord blood stem cells may also provide a suitable match for parents, grandparents, cousins, and other biologically-related family members.
- Cord blood stem cells have a 25% probability of being a perfect match and a 50% probability of providing a suitable match for transplant use with a sibling.
- Because most medical conditions do not arise until later in life, families with privately stored stem cells are likely to be the first to benefit from emerging stem cell therapies and advances in regenerative medicine.
- To date, minority populations have been drastically under-represented in transplant registries. For this reason, it is recommended that mixed ethnic parents strongly consider private banking, as they have limited access to donor matches in current registries.
To learn more about the cord blood banking industry, read our recent article about the “Top 10 Cord Blood Banks Worldwide.”