Private “banks” that preserve umbilical cord blood are aggressively marketing their services to new parents, according to an MSNBC report that raises the concern that parents are being exploited with emotional advertising and misleading information about potential medical problems that the stem cell–rich blood might solve.
“The problem is, the advertising often oversells the potential for cord blood use,” says Dr. Brandon Triplett, medical director of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank.
Currently, the uses for cord blood stem cells are limited, and only about 2,000 cord blood transplants are performed annually worldwide. A tiny 3 percent of new parents make use of preservation services.
But the cord blood preservation industry is growing; Cord Blood America Inc. announced earlier this month that it continues to increase its inventory in both the United States and in Europe by more than 10 percent annually.
And despite critics’ skepticism about the value of cord blood use, it has in some cases saved lives.
Fox News recently reported that an umbilical cord blood transplant has helped nine-month-old Granton Bayless cope with the immune condition commonly known as “bubble boy” disease.
And Noel Beninati, 58, received cord blood stem cells last May that helped him fight a rare blood condition, reports Time magazine. Parents “must understand the importance this decision can mean for the public good,” Beninati told Time.
Moreover, some doctors say that in the future, cord blood stem cells could help to treat such diseases as certain types of blood cancers, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, and type-1 diabetes, and could even prove useful in regenerative medicine.