Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inside the Strange Science of Cord Blood Banking

Cord blood sample, before processing.

In a nondescript commercial park on the outskirts of Las Vegas, a large cryogenic stem cell storage facility is ready to accept your baby’s blood.

Cord Blood America in Las Vegas is one of dozens of private cord blood banks in the United States that, for a fee, will store stem cell-rich blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord.
Over one hundred thousand families save or donate cord blood annually, in the hopes it will one day provide medical help to their child or someone else.

“My vision is within the next 10 years we’ll see organizations like this develop into cellular therapy labs,” said Dr. Geoffrey O’Neill, vice president of CorCell, the subsidiary company that runs Cord Blood America’s Las Vegas facility. It’s beginning to happen now in countries like China and Mexico, he says.

But while banking cord blood is legal and safe, many health care professionals question the value of private banks. Regenerative therapies based on stem cells from cord blood have had mixed preliminary success, and researchers are split over when and whether they’ll ever come through.

In the meantime, private cord blood banks are expensive, their marketing can be misleading and their practicality is suspect.

Read the full story.
Photo: Jim Merithew/ Creative Commons licensed under BY-NC.

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