Many parents believe simply deciding to bank their baby’s cord blood is the end of the process. In actuality, cord blood banking requires all the research and decision making of monetary banking. All blood banks and blood banking services are not created equal so understanding what questions you should ask and what considerations you should take into account is imperative before parting with the significant amount of time and money associated with cord blood banking. Before signing the dotted line on a cord blood banking contract, ask these questions.
Are You Contracting With a Marketer or an Owner?
One of the most important questions to ask when interviewing cord blood banking companies is whether they own the blood bank or whether they are marketers that rely on another facility for laboratory services and storage. An owner-backed operation is more reassuring to prospective customers because they can access information about the cord blood bank directly from the facility. It also means that the company selling you the contract has a vested interest in the success of the laboratory performing the testing and storage. While marketers have a vested interest in making the sale, they will probably not be there if the laboratory fails ten years down the line.
Do They Store Cord Blood Tissue as Well as Cells?
Although most people have heard of the benefits of storing the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) found in cord blood, many do not know that significant research is being performed on the use of Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are stem cells found in the tissues surrounding the umbilical cord’s veins.
Although MSC procedures are not yet FDA approved, there is the possibility of MSCs becoming a vital part of healthcare as your baby grows. Currently, all cord blood banking centers store HSCs but only about half also store MSCs. Ask whether the cord blood bank you choose processes and stores HSCs and if there is any additional cost for that service.
What is their Licensure and Experience?
FDA registration and AABB accreditation is the bare minimum when it comes to choosing a cord blood bank you can trust but don’t stop there. Ask your potential cord blood bank about their staff, the experience of the blood bank team, and the certifications of their medical and laboratory director. Ask whether employees attend conferences to keep up to date with upcoming research and techniques. A service that invests in the education and advancement of their staff show that they have vested interest in keeping practices current in the coming decades.
How is the Cord Blood Processed?
If a laboratory employs highly trained staff, manual processing of the stem cell sample will allow the technologist to produce a larger yield due to the ability to look at the sample and its variables in depth.
Automation also exists in stem cell retrieval. The benefits of automation are quicker retrieval times and less chance of contamination or technologist error when processing the sample.
If you are also banking tissue, there are two processes for MSC storage. The first and cheapest is storage of the full umbilical cord. While this slows the process of retrieving usable cells should they be required, it does allow storage of cells and tissue that may be usable in the future. The second tissue storage option is to extract the cells from the umbilical cord before storage. This essentially rules out the possibility of using other parts of umbilical cord in the event of future advances but it does allow for easy retrieval. Understanding the processes used to store your baby’s cord blood will give you insight into the benefits and drawbacks of storing with a particular company.
Where is the Blood Bank Located?
Like real estate, cord cell banking is all about location, location, location. In case of an emergency, a cord blood storage facility that is close to a major airport can save time and lives. In addition, cord blood storage facilities in areas that are at high risk for environmental disasters can have significant risks. Stored cord blood needs to be kept under strict conditions and a large hurricane or sizable earthquake could lead to the sample being irreparably damaged.
How Will You Pay?
Cord blood banks fall into two categories when it comes to price. Some choose to charge a flat fee for indefinite or long term storage of your baby’s cord blood. Others charge a one-time fee for processing the cord blood and an additional yearly fee for storage. While a one-time payment may seem ideal, a yearly payment may actually be preferred. With a yearly payment for storage, you ensure that the company is getting a steady stream of income to pay for experienced staff, up-to-date facilities, and security for the samples they hold. If you use a company utilizing one-time payments, ensure that they are financially solvent and have a solid reputation in the cord blood storage field.
What is the Company’s Financial Situation?
Choosing a publically traded company has its benefits when it comes to cord blood banking. The ability to look over the profits and stability of a publically traded company means you can get a direct line to the viability of the bank in the future. That doesn’t mean you should discount private companies; just ensuring that you can access their full financial position is important. Cord blood storage isn’t a one-time deal. You need to rely on that company to stay in business and keep your child’s cord blood viable for its entire life.
Choosing to store your baby’s stem cells isn’t a simple act. By choosing a cord blood storage facility, you are trusting them to provide twenty years or more of consistent services with experienced staff who can provide exceptional stem cells in case of an emergency. Take the time to fully vet any potential company before signing a contract.