New parents and reality television stars Giuliana and Bill Rancic have written about their decision to privately store their newborn son's umbilical cord blood. The baby, Edward Duke, arrived on Aug. 29 through a gestational surrogate.
In a blog post for People, the Rancics explained that Giuliana's battle with breast cancer and their own struggle with infertility prompted them to prepare for the future.
"After our own health scares and all that we went through to finally get pregnant, it was a no-brainer for us," the couple wrote in a joint blog post for People. "We’ve always taken charge of our own health and wanted to do the same for our son even before he was born."
The Rancics have partnered with the Cord Blood Registry, a large stem cell bank, to ensure parents become informed about the practice. People notes the Rancics are paid spokespersons for Cord Blood Registry.
Despite the purported advantages of banking cord blood for the potential its stem cells contain, the merits of doing so through private banks have been debated for years. (Private banks ensure that cord blood will be accessible for the family's use only, whereas public banks work more on a donation system, in which the cells can be used by anyone.)
In May, Tracey Dones, a mother from New York, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that when she learned her 4-month-old son had osteoporosis, she was initially comforted by the fact that she had stored his cord blood with a private bank.
But Dones later learned that, like many diseases, her child's osteoporosis couldn't be treated with his own stem cells because they also contained the disease. As a result, Dones ended up having to find a transplant match through a public bank. Private banking, she explained, felt like a false promise and a waste of money.
"There are so many people out there who don't really understand and they are so misled by the advertisements out there it still makes me angry," Dones told "Good Morning America."
As Parents magazine reports, in the last 10 years, the majority of "cord blood transplants that have used privately stored blood" weren't given to the children themselves, but to family members with pre-existing conditions.
Concerns have been also been raised about banks preying on the anxieties of new parents.
"Childhood leukemia is one of the diseases private banks like to play up, but most kids with leukemia are cured with chemotherapy alone. If a transplant is needed, we wouldn't use a child's tainted cord blood," Joanne Kurtzberg with Duke University Medical Center explained to Parents.
As Fox News recently noted, private cord banking can be quite costly. Initial fees can run $1,500 to $2,000, and annual storage can cost $100 to $200. The chances that a child will need their own stem cells for a transplant before the age of 10 are also slim. According to Fox, those odds are about one in 10,000, and it is still unclear how long cells can be stored for use.
The Academy of Pediatrics has been outspoken about what private banking can and cannot promise, and in a 2007 report, the group concluded that the marketing the private storage of cord blood as “biological insurance” should be discouraged.
"The potential for children needing their own cord blood stem cells for future autologous use is controversial presently," the authors of the report wrote.
Still, the academy does encourage public banking and the use of private banking in cases where a family member has a pre-existing condition or a transplant is expected to be needed in the future.