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Busted: Top Myths of Cord Blood Banking

Separate fact from fiction and make an informed decision about storing your child’s cord blood stem cells.

Cord blood banking is the process of storing your newborn’s stem cells which are present in the umbilical cord following his birth. While it may have been available in Singapore for over 16 years, there are still many misconceptions about cord blood banking.

As you have only one chance to bank your child’s cord blood, it’s important to do it right. The first step is to arm yourself with accurate information. Here are the five most common myths debunked.


MYTH 1: IF MY CHILD GETS SICK, HE CANNOT USE HIS OWN CORD BLOOD.
Fact: Whether a child’s cord blood can be used to treat himself will depend on the type of condition being diagnosed, as well as the age the diagnosis is made. Should the cause of the condition be genetic, it will not be advisable for the child to receive his own cord blood. In such cases, his sibling’s cord blood may open up medical options for treatment. Besides, finding a suitable match is always easier within the family as opposed to unrelated donors. However, should the condition be due to environmental factors, it will be safe for the child to receive his own cord blood. In cancer cases, for example, research has shown that only about five to 10 per cent of such cases are caused by genetics. The remaining 90 to 95 per cent are caused by environmental factors*.

MYTH 2: CORD BLOOD CAN ONLY TREAT BLOOD DISORDERS.
Fact: Studies have shown that cord blood is able to treat over 80 diseases including leukaemia, lymphoma and neuroblastoma. There are also ongoing clinical trials and studies that may one day help patients with conditions like cerebral palsy, autism and diabetes.

MYTH 3: I CAN ALWAYS FIND A BONE MARROW DONOR IF I NEED STEM CELLS IN FUTURE.
Fact: There are many advantages of using stem cells from cord blood as compared to bone marrow. It saves the family precious time, money and heartache from having to do a national or international search for a bone marrow match, especially in a time-critical situation. In addition, extracting bone marrow stem cells is an invasive process, whereas cord blood collection is easy, painless and risk-free to both mother and child. Furthermore, in the case of an autologous cord blood stem cell transplant (where the donor and recipient are the same individual), there is minimal risk of graft-versus-host disease as compared to a bone marrow transplant.

MYTH 4: COLLECTING CORD BLOOD AFFECTS DELIVERY AND TAKES BLOOD AWAY FROM THE BABY.
Fact: Cord blood collection happens only after delivery when the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. The process is safe and painless for both mother and child. For those who choose not to store cord blood, it will ordinarily be discarded.

MYTH 5: ALL CORD BLOOD BANKS ARE THE SAME.
Fact: Cord blood banks are not made equal. They vary in quality, experience and the kind of technology used to collect, process and store cord blood. The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, an educational resource for parents, recommends selecting a family cord blood bank that has passed at least one accreditation standard – the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) or FACT (Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy). You should also pick a family cord blood bank with a positive transplant track record. This shows that your child’s stem cells are being stored in conditions of the highest standard so as to remain usable in future.

This article was adapted from Young Parents, Issue Nov 2017.

*Anand P, Kunnumakara AB, Sundaram C, et al. “Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes”. Pharm Res. 2008;25(9):2097–2116. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569. Accessed Sept 25, 2017.

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