Many expecting parents make the decision to store their cord blood at a blood bank with a fee (~$2000). The rationale is that if their child develops childhood leukemia in the future, the stored cord blood will have healthy stem cells that could be used for bone marrow transplantation.
Last Friday I talked to two colleagues who are rheumatoid arthritis doctors. They mentioned that for childhood leukemia, no doctor would recommend using the child’s own cord blood, since the stem cells stored may contain the same genetic defect that caused the childhood leukemia. In addition, it is unclear whether the stem cell in storage is still in good enough shape to make good transplantation. Instead, they should use the stem cells from normal kids with good matches. So the value of privately stored cord blood is only applicable for one kid to save his/her sibling, and only if the storage condition is good enough. In China where most families have only one child, this would totally void the value of storing cord blood.
Therefore, the best way to help future leukemia transplantation is to donate the cord blood to a public blood bank. It is usually free to the donor, with just some paperwork for registration. This way, your child’s cord blood could be used to save other kids, and vice versa. Most OBGYNs don’t tell parents this option, since they get paid from private cord blood banks (for paid storage), but not for public cord blood banks (for donation). This link contains the list of public blood banks.
I was shocked by this information! How many parents have been cheated of their $ to think that they could save their own child by paying to store their cord blood. These companies play on parents’ fear, and to me are quite unethical not to tell parents the truth. I hope to tell as many expecting parents about this in the future: donate cord blood, save your money and help other kids.