Cord blood banking industry expected to grow

OYSI: Cord blood banking options in B'ham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The list of decisions for new parents already seems endless but it continues to grow as new advances in medicine and technology open new doors for healthcare.

Many private companies such as Evercord and Americord offer services for collecting and storing a child’s umbilical cord blood at birth. Such a service is painless to both mother and baby, does not require much extra effort and could potentially safe the life of the baby or family member in the future.

One recent analysis by MarketWatch predicts the cord stem cell banking industry will grow to more than $4 billion in the United States by 2022.

However, retrieving stem cells from cord blood and storing it for decades to come is also a cost prohibitive venture for many. The upfront costs of having a professional extract blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord and send the gathered materials to a storage facility can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars. Then, every year the samples are in storage the family will have to pay.

“It’s different for every family but I look at it as an insurance policy you hope you never need,” said Dr. Ashley Tamucci, an OBGYN at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, who champions an alternative to the expensive private cord blood banking services.

Dr. Tamucci was instrumental in pushing for Brookwood to become the first hospital in the area collecting for a public cord blood bank, LifeCord. Over the past five years, RMC in Anniston also came on board with LifeCord, giving patients there the option of donating their baby’s cord blood to patients across the country in need of a transplant. Both hospitals have been recognized for providing lifesaving cells to strangers suffering from diseases such as Leukemia.

Of the 30 or more doctors delivering babies at Brookwood, Dr. Tamucci collected approximately 10 percent of the donations to LifeCord, according to the not-for-profit’s Director Tom Moss.

“Brookwood does a tremendous job in informing patients about the donation program and being great partners in a life giving service,” Moss told WBRC.

For Dr. Tamucci, the effort to get more public donations was personal and took years to accomplish. Inspired by her friend Chappell White Anderson’s diagnosis of Lymphoma at a young age, Dr. Tamucci pushed even harder to make the service a reality at Brookwood. Anderson, a wife and mother of three, died from the disease that can benefit from cord blood donations as she waited to be matched with a donor.

Chappell White Anderson and Dr. Ashley Tamucci (right)
Chappell White Anderson and Dr. Ashley Tamucci (right) (Courtesy: Ashley Tamucci)

Today cord blood can be used to treat more than 80 diseases including several types of cancer, sickle cell and cerebral palsy. How many more conditions can be treated in the future with the stem cells retrieved from umbilical cord blood seems nearly endless as researchers work on cures for everything from degenerative eye disorders to neurological injuries and burns.

For more information on donating or privately storing a newborn’s cord blood, patients should speak to their doctor.

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