Questions To Ask When Considering Cord Blood Preservation For Your Baby
By Brent N. Davidson, M.D.
Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your baby. It’s an exciting time and you probably have a lot on your mind anticipating the arrival of your new baby. It’s also a time that presents an opportunity to do something extraordinary for your baby and your family – the opportunity to preserve your newborn’s cord blood stem cells.
Currently, the stem cells in your baby’s cord blood can be used in the treatment of over 70 chronic or life-threatening diseases. Diseases like Leukemia and other cancers, genetic and blood diseases, and a range of immune system deficiencies. Plus, researchers are now looking to cord blood for answers to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and muscular dystrophy.
You only get one chance to preserve your baby’s cord blood. That’s why it’s critical to select a high quality cord blood company. Here are key questions to ask before selecting a cord blood company:
- Is the company accredited by The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)?
Make sure the cord blood banking company you are considering is fully accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) specifically for the processing of cord blood stem cells. The AABB is the only accreditation that ensures high standards of quality for the processing and storage of your baby’s cord blood.
Some banks are fee-paying members of the AABB, but that’s not the same as being fully accredited. To be accredited, the cord blood banking company must have its laboratory and administrative procedures reviewed, inspected and validated regularly and their procedures must be compliant with the guidelines established by AABB for cord blood processing.
It’s even better if the cord blood banking company you select is recognized by AABB as having procedures that represent exceptional and novel practices in the industry.
- How experienced is the cord blood banking company and do they guarantee their product?
You should ask the company you’re considering how many cord blood units they have stored, and whether they have facilitated any successful transplants.
You should be cautious of a company that has a high number of cord blood units collected and stored, but has never or rarely used a unit for transplant. It could mean transplant physicians have rejected their cord blood – a warning flag that the company’s procedures are not thorough.
Best of all is if the company offers a quality product guarantee. This ensures the fact that you are dealing with a quality-conscious company dedicated to providing the highest quality processing and cryopreservation of your baby’s cord blood.
- Is the company financially stable?
Cord blood banking is a costly industry. Some companies have gone out of business and parents actually have lost their cord blood units. Assessing a company’s long-term financial future is difficult, however there are a few critical questions you should ask. The first is, what the company would do with your cord blood if they were to go out of business. Be sure the company you are considering has a reasonable plan to accommodate customers, such as a formal written agreement with another medical facility where they would take over the management of the cord blood units.
You should also ask how long the company has been preserving cord blood. In addition, you should find out if the company is a division of larger corporation, and whether there are academic affiliations, research collaborations and equity partnerships with major biotechnology companies. This would provide proof that the company is committed to researching and developing further applications for cord blood stem cell therapy and will most likely be around for the long term.
- Does their service include bedside pick up by a Private Medical Courier and do they employ state-of-the-art tracking technology to ensure timely delivery?
Look for a company that handles the logistics and uses a private medical courier to ensure the quickest, highest quality pick-up and delivery of your baby’s cord blood. The company should arrange to pick up your baby’s cord blood from your bedside in the hospital and transport it to the laboratory 24-hours a day, any day of the week, weekend or holiday. The company should manage all courier and transportation logistics, including accurate tracking of sample handling, and should be committed to transporting the cord blood unit to the laboratory within 24 hours of the baby’s birth to ensure maximum viability.
The three areas proven to increase and maintain cell viability are timing, pressure and temperature regulation, all of which are controlled by the use of a private medical courier. This ensures the cord blood unit is kept at the proper temperature and pressure during transport and ensures the cord blood unit it delivered to the laboratory within 24 hours. With a private medical courier, your child’s cord blood gets to the lab quickly and safely while avoiding the potentially damaging temperature swings and pressure changes that happen with standard package carriers. This maximizes the number of cells that can be used in a transplant should you ever need them.
- How does the company collect and store your child’s cord blood?
Look for a company that uses the Gravity Bag Collection method (vs. Syringe method). The Gravity Bag is the collection method most preferred by doctors and it is designed to collect the greatest volume of cord blood. It’s the industry standard method used by the majority of blood banks and similar to the methods used by the American Red Cross and the National Institutes of Health. It is important to collect as much cord blood as possible, as results show that larger samples produce more viable stem cells. The Gravity Bag method allows for the most cord blood to flow into the bag. In addition, the closed tube/bag system eliminates exposure to airborne bacteria and greatly reduces likelihood of contamination during collection. Be sure the company you are looking at provides a sterile collection protocol to allow for collections to be performed during C-sections and emergency births.
Look at how the company stores the cord blood after processing. Look for a company that cryopreserves the processed cord blood in multi-compartment, transplant-ready Cryobags. Cryobags allow for higher cell recovery rates and a higher cell viability rate compared to other storage methods like Cryovials. While storage in Cryovials is less expensive for cord blood companies, it does not maximize the value of the stem cells for families. The superiority of the Cryobags allow for higher cell recovery and higher viability than Cryovials.
Additionally, the company should store a small amount of processed cord blood in aliquots – a small compartment of cord blood designed for pre-transplantation testing. The benefit is that the testing can be done without disturbing the primary compartments. With the Cryovial method, an entire vial must be thawed and used to perform this necessary pre-transplantation testing procedure.
- Does the company have a Medical Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB) made up of notable authorities in the field of cord blood stem cell preservation and transplantation?
The company you are considering should have a Medical Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB) made up of thought leaders in the field of stem cell transplantation and cord blood preservation. Ask how the company uses their MSAB. They should meet regularly to set quality standards within the company and thereby help to maintain the highest and most advanced level of service available.
- Is the company committed to research for future applications of cord blood?
Look for a company that actively participates and invests in research and development of cord blood stem cell therapies. If a cord blood company is committed to research, it’s a good indication that the company is also committed to the future, which means they are more likely to have financial stability. Another potential benefit — any medical breakthroughs developed by their R&D division will have been conducted using their own processing and cryopreservation methodology. In other words, you may be in a better position to benefit from their discoveries by using their processing techniques as opposed to methods used by other cord blood companies.
Do you know your baby's birth stone? Birth Flower? How about when you'll be handing over the car keys? Check out our popular Fun Birthday Facts Calculator to discover fun trivia about your baby's birth or due date!