At CBR, we’ve heard many myths and misconceptions over the years about preserving newborn stem cells. So we thought we’d address some of the ones we hear the most.
Myth #1: They’re only good for 18 years, right?
Fact: Given all the information available today, it is believed that cord blood units in proper cryostorage should be able to be preserved indefinitely. Since cord blood preservation has only been around since 1988, however, cryopreservation tests are limited by time. Even so, there have been successful transplants made with cord blood samples stored for over twenty years.
Myth #2: I don’t need to preserve cord blood for each child because they can use the cord blood from my first child.
Fact: Although it’s certainly your choice to preserve cord blood for one or all of your children, we recommend preserving for all of them. While most cord blood stem cell transplants require that the stem cells be from a matched donor (like a matched sibling), the individual’s own stem cells may be used for certain conditions, especially in the investigational field of regenerative medicine.
In fact, every child is unique and is a perfect genetic match to their own newborn stem cells. Full siblings have up to a 75% chance of being at least a partial genetic match.
Myth #3: If you delay clamping of the umbilical cord, you can’t preserve cord blood.
Fact: Both options—cord blood preservation and delayed cord clamping—can be right for your family. This study from the New York Blood Center, the largest donor bank in the U.S., indicates that delayed cord clamping of 30-60 seconds does not significantly diminish the cell count of cord blood collected for preservation. Great news for families considering doing both!
While it’s true that the longer the clamping is delayed the less blood may be available to collect, we’ve had client families successfully do both. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best timing for you to clamp and cut the cord.
Myth #4: I don’t need to preserve because the samples will never be used.
Fact: Based on published data, the likelihood of needing a transplant using stem cells from any source is 1 in 217 (for an individual, by age 70, using their own stem cells or someone else’s).1
Since being identified 30 years ago as a successful alternative to bone marrow for use in a stem cell transplant, cord blood has been used by more than 40,000 patients worldwide as part of a stem cell transplant, from both donated and privately banked cord blood.2
And within the last decade, the amount of cord blood research in regenerative medicine has skyrocketed. Newborn stem cells are being researched in over 100 clinical trials around the world to investigate possible future applications for neurological conditions, autoimmune conditions, and organ repair.3 As the clinical research expands, so does the likelihood that a member of your family may need the stem cells.
Myth #5: You only need to save cord blood if you have a family history of illness.
Since many conditions that are treatable with a stem cell transplant don’t run in families, family history is not a reliable indicator of need. For example, many forms of leukemia often occur spontaneously and do not always run in families.
Then there’s the newer research on cord blood in regenerative medicine, in which doctors are evaluating cord blood’s ability to repair damaged organs and tissue in the body. They’re also looking at neurological conditions like autism and cerebral palsy, and cardiovascular defects like hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
While it is true that the conditions treated with cord blood stem cells in transplant situations are not common, there are currently 80+ diseases where hematopoietic stem cells, including those from cord blood, may be used in treatment as part of a stem cell transplant.
So there you have it: Five of the most common myths we hear about newborn stem cells. Do you have any friends or family who are expecting soon? Share this article!
- Nietfeld JJ, Pasquini MC, Logan BR, et al. Lifetime probabilities of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in the U.S. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2008;14(3):316-322.
- Ballen K. Update on umbilical cord blood transplantation. F1000Res. 2017;6:1556. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11952.1.