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What’s cord blood banking and is it available in the UK?

Cord blood banking is a relatively new process where new parents agree to have their child’s cord blood saved to be used in the future, if needed. Today many parents are asked before childbirth whether they wish to save the cord blood or donate it to a publicly funded facility.

This blood would normally be simply thrown out, which is a shame since tests have shown that this umbilical cord blood can treat:
 
  • Malignancies, e.g. leukaemia, lymphoma
  • Bone marrow failure
  • Haemoglobinopathies, e.g. sickle cell anaemia
  • Immunodeficiencies
  • Metabolic disorders  
 
 
In the UK you can choose to store cord blood in a private facility or agree to donate it to a government funded public cord blood bank. Private facilities provide an opportunity for donors to store their cord blood. This is done in the hope that if a member of their family becomes sick with a disease that is stem cell treatable there might be a perfectly matched unit available to them. These facilities charge an upfront collection fee and then typically charge a yearly rate for ongoing storage of the cord blood.
 
Donating to cord blood banks that are publicly or government funded facilities means that the cord blood can be donated to any patient who is a match, including the person who donated it providing it is a match. These public facilities will collect the cord blood from public hospitals free of charge.
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