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Banking cord blood: benefits vs. cost

Cord Blood Banking

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Cord blood is rich with stem cells which is why banking cord blood became popular. Banking cord blood started in the late 80's when a child was cured from fanconi anemia, a rare disease using cord blood.

It gained a lot of popularity here in eastern Idaho within the last decade, but doctors say it's become less popular because of cost.

Parents will do anything to keep their children healthy. When cord blood banks promised freezing cord blood could cure diseases like cerebral palsy and cancer, it became instantly popular.

"So if this child who we developed the cord blood from becomes ill from disease you could potentially use those stem cells, grow the cord blood out and treat the disease," said Carrie Merrill, D.O at Rosemark Women's Center.

The umbilical cord and the blood left in it at birth contain pristine newborn stem cells that have shown to help other tissues and organs heal themselves after injury or disease.

"Stem cells are basic building block for most cells whether the is blood, bone, skin cartilage any kind of tissue comes from a basic stem cell," said Merrill.

Since stem cells in cord blood are younger compared to adult stem cells from bone marrow, they have a greater ability to multiply. They also have not been exposed to environmental factors as much, which can interfere with their function.

Banking cord blood is not cheap.

Jayne Bridgewater, the manager of women's services at Mountain View Hospital said it's up to the parents to bring in kits from cord blood banks.

"It was really popular about five or ten years ago, but it's extremely cost prohibitive so it's kind of fallen out of favor," said Bridgewater.

Doctors at eastern Idaho regional medical center also say they see only a handful of parents choosing to bank cord blood.

"I think for the average normal couple. The healthy mom, dad and baby and there would not be a need," said Lorri Anderson, director of the women's center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Banking cord blood ranges in cost depending on the blood bank agency. There are private and public cord blood banks. Many charge an initial blood collecting fee, which ranges from $1,000 to $3,000.

Then there is an annual storage fee around $125.

Doctors said cord blood treatment is like any other medical treatment, there is no guarantee it will work.

There are current clinical trials testing cord blood to treat diseases like autism, type-1 diabetes and traumatic brain injury.

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