North Carolina has state legislation around cord blood education that follows the Institute of Medicine guidelines and mandates/encourages physicians to educate expectant parents about ALL forms of cord blood banking. The North Carolina bill was enacted 8 June 2009 and became effective 8 June 2009.
- What is HLA Type and how is it used?
The term "HLA" is short for Human Leukocyte Antigens, and these are proteins in the immune system that determine whether a patient will react against a donor transplant. A very good basic tutorial about HLA types is on the Stanford Website, and the national Be The Match program (aka NMDP) has more info on the role of HLA type in transplants of stem cells from bone marrow or cord blood.
Briefly, there are 6 HLA types that are important for stem cell transplants: in a bone marrow transplant the patient and donor must match at all 6 (100% match), whereas a cord blood transplant is just as effective at curing patients with only a 4 out of 6 match (67% match) between donor and patient. This is the reason that donations to the national cord blood inventory managed by NMDP are so important to help patients who come from minority or mixed racial backgrounds.
The HLA type of cord blood is always measured by public banks, and then the type is listed on a registry that can be searched by patients seeking a transplant. Family banks typically do not measure the HLA type at the time of banking, because it is an expensive lab test and and can always be checked later from a testing segment of the stored cells.
- If I donate my baby's cord blood, will that child have free access to cord blood for a transplant?
- No. When a mother signs the Informed Consent to donate cord blood, she gives up any guaranteed access to that blood. The blood may not be banked, and if it is banked, it may be released to some one else. There have been cases where families needed their child's cord blood and got it back from a public bank, but it is important to realize there are no guarantees of access to donated cord blood. Cord blood donors also do not receive guarantees of priority treatment or waived fees if your child later needs a donor. The reward for donating cord blood is the possibility that your baby may Be The Match that saves a life.
- Why is it important to choose a Family Bank that is accredited?
The Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation recommends that parents select a Family Bank whose laboratory has been inspected and accredited by an accreditation agency specific to cord blood banking, as this provides a degree of quality assurance.
In some countries, national regulations hold Family Banks to the same standards as Public Banks, so an independent accreditation is not necessary (Examples: Germany, Israel). But in most countries the federal requirements for Family Banks are not as strict as Public Banks, and then a voluntary accreditation is desirable. For example, in the United States the FDA registers and inspects Family banks, but does not require them to have a BLA License like Public Banks.
Caveat: The process of registering with an accreditation agency and getting inspected can take a year, so it is understandable if a brand new lab does not have an accreditation yet.