Anything that improves the quality of life deserves recognition and praise. I was impartial to the use of cord blood until I read about the case of Chloe Levine (see Growing Use of Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood in Regenerative Medicine)
Chloe Levine was born with the left side of her brain not fully developed and it contained fluid. Her parents noticed that she was unable to hold her bottle at nine months old and subsequently learned that she had developed cerebral palsy. Of course, they were devastated. As obstetricians, it is our goal to help a mother have a healthy baby and when that goal is not achieved, the anguish and despair is palpable.
Chloe’s parents had stored her umbilical cord blood and when they heard about an experimental procedure that used cord blood to reduce the effects of cerebral palsy at Duke University, they decided to give it a try. Chloe began treatment on May 27, 2008 and improvement was noticed a short time later. The stiffness of her right side was gone. She no longer needs physical or speech therapy and when she began preschool, she did not qualify for special needs services. What an amazing story.
There are more than 100,000 cord blood units currently stored in banks worldwide and fall into three categories. Public cord blood banks are usually non-profit. They collect and store cord blood units for anyone who has a medical indication for a stem cell transplant. Private cord blood banks are for-profit entities that collect and store cord blood for families who can pay for such a service. The cost for this service varies from $1100 to $1750 for processing the initial specimen and then there is an annual storage fee of $115 to $125 for each unit. Directed cord blood banking is a service for families who has a relative with a need for a transplant and who is also expecting a child. The collection and storage of the blood are free for families who have a medical need.
Although umbilical cord blood is considered investigational, it is certainly worth considering especially if you have a family member who can benefit from a transplant. Additional information may be obtained from the National Marrow Program’s website at www.marrow.org or the Children’t Hospital Oakland Research Institute www.chori.org/Services/Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program/indexcord.html
I am extremely happy for the parents of Chloe Levine and hope there will be more success stories such as hers in the future.
*Full disclosure: Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway has not received financial support from any cord blood bank nor does she have any financial interest or associations in such companies.