Reports in today’s media (22 September 2011) that babies could be put at risk by overstretched midwives collecting umbilical cords for private storage are concerning.
Ken Campbell MSc, Clinical Information Officer at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “A more important issue is the fact that storage of umbilical cord blood for private use is described by all relevant professional bodies, including the UK Royal Colleges as unnecessary, as well as expensive. There is currently no reliable evidence that stem cells can be stored indefinitely for use into adulthood.
As stated in the article, around 7,000 people are diagnosed with leukaemia each year in the UK, but only around 500 of these are children. Of these children, the vast majority will be cured with chemotherapy alone, with a stem cell transplant used as a last option.
Crucially, it is inadvisable that children with leukaemia are treated with their own umbilical cord blood, as research suggests that pre-leukaemic stem cells develop in the womb. Using stem cells from the child’s own cord blood risks re-introducing the pre-leukaemic cells.
We would strongly encourage mothers to donate cord blood to the national cord blood bank at NHS hospitals where the option is available. New research into cord blood transplants is leading to effective and life-saving treatments for both children and adults.
More NHS hospitals should offer this option, working with organisations to provide trained cord blood collectors and specialised storage facilities, as cord blood transplants do represent a genuinely exciting advance in treatment. ”