Stem cell harvesting could be the key to brotherly (and sisterly) love
Parents having babies so they can store stem cells for new arrival and existing siblings including themselves
Growing numbers of parents are having babies so that they can store their new arrival’s precious stem cells, not just for baby, but also for existing brothers and sisters and the parents.
According to one UK stem cell storage company, it appears that some people are hoping that the cells – which are harvested at birth – might provide a blood match for their children who might have missed the boat for stem cell storage in the past.
Stem cell storage company StemProtect.co.uk says that more and more clients are asking whether their new arrival’s cells would be suitable for siblings and themselves should they be required to treat a future illness.
“It’s a question we’re asked most days,” says StemProtect.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “and the straight answer is that it’s not as clear-cut as it might seem, but the positives are getting stronger all the time.”
Here’s how it works:
- Stem cells harvested from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord can be deep-frozen and used as treatment for future illnesses.
- These cells are a 100% match for baby, so any procedure in which these cells are used on the primary donor stands a far better chance of succeeding.
- Stem blood used to treat a sibling stands only a 25% chance of being a blood match. Other factors may also come into play to determine whether a proposed therapy might be successful.
- Parents who have “missed the boat” the first time around can be reassured by stem cells present in a child’s milk teeth, which can also be stored. These, however, may be less effective than umbilical cord blood cells
“New parents are coming to us knowing that stem cell storage is a kind of insurance policy for their child’s health,” says Hall.
“They know there are already benefits of storing cell samples, and see the huge amount of research going on to find cures for many diseases and conditions using stem cell regeneration techniques.”
Because stem cell harvesting and storage has always been prohibitively expensive in the past, parents worry that their existing children might be missing out now that prices have brought it into their reach. It’s StemProtect.co.uk’s duty to give them realistic and honest answers to their questions.
The cost of long-term cell storage has tumbled in recent years. That, coupled with the increasing potential of stem cell therapies mean that it has become a good sense option for many expectant families.
Realistic expectations for a significant investment
Typical of StemProtect.co.uk clients are John and Denise (not their real names) who came to us with genuine concerns: “We’ve got a history of one particular genetic disorder in our family, and we wanted to know if stem cells from the baby we’re planning would be of any use for our six-year-old.
“StemProtect.co.uk told us not to get too carried away, but reassured us that there was a small yet significant chance of a match, and – just as importantly – that the service also included screening for abnormalities at both the pre- and post-natal stages.
“That’s important to us, and will be a huge part of this huge decision we’re about to make.”
StemProtect.co.uk’s Mark Hall says it is important for services like theirs not to oversell expectations, but to give prospective clients fair and balanced advice to help them make one of the most significant investments they’ll ever make.
“New stem cell therapies are emerging all the time, and these may take several years to work their way through clinical trial processes to become a strong, peer-reviewed treatment for patients.
“That’s why parents are prepared to store stem cells for their children, because they believe – as we do – that the future may bring important advances in stem cell-based medicine that can benefit not only the primary donor, but siblings too.”