Posted: Aug 11, 2011
Since 1998, countless families have turned to Dr. Fran Verter and her remarkable website, Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, as a guide to evaluating cord blood banking services. Parents aren’t the only ones who have turned to Dr. Verter for her expertise; in the past few months, three states – Virginia, Florida and Missouri– began giving doctors educational materials from Dr. Verter’s cord blood foundation to share with patients.
CBR is proud to provide support to a foundation so well-respected and dedicated to providing a wealth of unbiased information about cord blood banking. Verter maintains comprehensive lists of public and private banks around the world, answers frequently asked medical questions, and provides news on the latest research and cord blood stem cell news. If you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned veteran, the site offers an array of options for parents to consider as they deepen their knowledge about newborn stem cell banking.
Read on to learn more about the foundation, including some answers to frequently asked questions and what Dr. Verter sees for the future of the field.
CBR: Please tell us about the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.
Dr. Verter: The foundation is the leading resource on the Internet for parents who are looking for a balanced perspective on cord blood banking. We educate parents on their options and show them statistics to help them understand the odds of using cord blood. However, we never steer parents to either donate or bank privately. We give them the power to decide.
CBR: What information and resources do you provide to parents?
Dr. Verter: Our website explains how newborn cord blood is processed, displays maps for parents to see private and public bank locations and answers a range of medical questions. In fact, we have the nation’s first and only searchable map of locations to donate cord blood, which I update constantly for parents to be able to see if their hospital is listed or learn about mail-in donations.
More parents are learning about cord blood stem cells and banking from their doctors. It’s exciting. In 23 states, there is legislation in place for doctors to give their patients information about all storage options, covering approximately 75% of births across the US.
CBR: Your website says that the organization emphasizes how to evaluate bank services. Why do you think that this is so important for families to understand?
Dr. Verter: Parents need to see what is “window dressing” and what is important in cord blood banking services. Banking cord blood is a medical service, so shopping around to get the cheapest service is not the most important part of the decision, in my opinion. I encourage parents to think about the companies who are well-established and are going to ship cord blood in a manner that gets it to the processing laboratory alive.
CBR: What do parents ask you most often?
Dr. Verter: I get everything from incredibly technical questions to basic ones. Sometimes if a bank advertises about a particular feature, like a new processing method, parents will ask more questions about that aspect of banking.
I’m concerned that the variety of options – there are banks offering amniotic fluid, menstrual blood, placenta blood and umbilical cord tissue banking – confuses the decision for parents and, to a certain extent, it dilutes the importance of cord blood banking. A newborn’s cord blood is such a potent source of stem cells, more so than the other sources. You can use the stem cells from cord blood exactly as is. You don’t have to manipulate them.
CBR: What success stories have you seen personally where cord blood helped a patient?
Dr. Verter: I love clinical trials and seeing what new research is available. It’s exciting to see clinics testing the use of a child’s own cord blood for a variety of neurological disorders. In fact, there are two trials in the U.S. looking at cerebral palsy, at Duke and Georgia Health Sciences University, as well as several other countries [that] are starting trials.
Sometime in the next five years, we’re probably going to hear about the efficacy of cord blood for cerebral palsy. The prevalence of cerebral palsy is 1 in 300 in school children. If even 20% of those kids could benefit from cord blood treatment, that usage would be much higher than what is going into stem cell transplants for rare diseases.
CBR: What else do you see for the future for cord blood banking?
Dr. Verter: My idea of an ideal future is if the U.S. had regulations comparable to Germany’s. Parents can bank cord blood at a family bank, and if a patient needs the blood, the family can choose to give it away and be reimbursed. This way accommodates both family banking and public banking.
You can learn more about the Cord Blood Foundation at http://parentsguidecordblood.org/.