NHS maternity units should discourage commercial banking of umbilical cord blood, argues a senior doctor in the British Medical Journal. Instead, women should be encouraged to donate altruistically to public blood banks.
Cord blood banks generally fall into two groups. Public banks collect cord blood which has been altruistically donated. The blood is used to treat unrelated recipients or is collected from families with a known genetic disease that is treatable by blood stem cell transplantation.
It is unfortunate that what was in effect a critique of private cord blood banking was perceived in the general media as a rejection of cord blood banking per se. Surely this is not what Dr Edozien intended.
Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells that can be used to treat diseases. There is overwhelming evidence of the many cures that have been obtained using cord blood stem cells – especially in childhood cancers – and increasing revelations of the huge versatility of these cells, including impressive research results from the team under Professor Colin McGuckin at Newcastle University.
It is perfectly possible for good practice to be applied to the collection and storage of cord blood whether for private or public use, and this should be encouraged. I do not believe it is particularly helpful to dismiss the private sector in this manner.
There are already examples worldwide of effective private/public collaborations, as well as impressive instances of private philanthropic initiatives. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.