Save the Cord Foundation Claims Cord Blood Stem Cells Overlooked Because of Public Banking Versus Private Donation Debate
March 19, 2009 (PRLEAP.COM) Business NewsTUCSON, Ariz., As President Obama reversed a controversial federal funding ban on embryonic stem cell research last week, the nation has been divided in its response. The executive order, however does not provide funding for umbilical cord blood stem cell research, which unlike embryonic stem cells, are a completely non-controversial area of stem cell science that has already proven to treat more than 70 diseases and has shown tremendous potential for regenerative medicine.
If this uncontroversial, natural resource has already shown such potential, why was it being overlooked?
"It's simple," says Charis Ober, co-founder of Save the Cord Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising umbilical cord blood awareness. "Cord blood stem cells and their amazing value are largely dismissed as physicians and scientists throughout the nation battle out the private banking versus public donation debate. We at Save the Cord Foundation believe that this debate is distracting from the life-saving properties that cord blood provides."
Private banking, where a newborn's stem cells are collected and stored to be used by the child or family, tends to be too expensive for the average family, often costing between $1,500 and $2,000 with an annual fee of $100-$200. Many critics in the medical community argue that this storage method preys on parent's fears, as the chance of using one's own cord blood is uncommon. One reason is that for many of the conditions where a blood cell transplant is the answer, a patient's own blood cells cannot be used, because it would reintroduce the disease trying to be cured. That said, family members other than the donor may benefit from private banking. In addition, researchers are discovering many promising breakthroughs using autologous cord blood, including regenerative medicine, the treatment of traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and a number of other diseases.
Public donation on the other hand is free and has the benefit of being readily available and more easily matched than donated bone marrow stem cells. The problem is the process tends to be cumbersome and depending on geographic location is not available to everyone. As a result 97% of umbilical cord stem cells are being discarded as medical waste.
"It's time that funding focuses on umbilical cord stem cells," says Anne Sarabia, co-founder of Save the Cord Foundation. "Not only do we need to dedicate more money to umbilical cord stem cell research, but we need to examine the cord blood banking and donation operations in this country. It's time to put differences aside and make cord blood preservation an option for all families."
Save the Cord Foundation is taking a number of steps to make this happen, including lobbying for funds to more broadly support public donation centers and research efforts. The agency also advocates for tax breaks, as well as for health insurance companies to provide coverage for private banking, in order to make private banking more affordable for families nationwide. Also of great importance is educating physicians treating expecting mothers.
"Umbilical cord blood stem cells have already shown amazing potential. To date, embryonic stem cells haven't proven the ability to save lives, but umbilical cord blood have, and this fact can't be ignored," Sarabia says.
Save the Cord Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was established to create and provide educational awareness, distribute unbiased, factual information concerning the life-saving benefits of cord blood, and advocate for the need to preserve this valuable natural resource. Its founders, Charis Ober and Anne Sarabia, have years of experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. For more information, visit www.savethecordfoundation.org.