What are the odds that we will need our cord blood?
The odds of using your baby's cord blood are the same as the probability that your baby or a close family member will have a disease that can be treated with cord blood.
Family cord blood banks tell parents that there are 80 diseases for which stem cell transplants are a standard treatment. That is a true statement, but it can be misleading. Most of those 80 diseases are rare among children. In the United States, the net probability that a child will need any type of stem cell transplant by age 20 is 3 in 5,000 or .06%. So the odds of use for transplant of a child are only 3 in 5000 for all of the 80 diseases combined!
When does cord blood stored in family banks have significant odds of use?
Family members: The graph on the left illustrates that, as people get older, rates of cancer increase, and the cumulative probability of having a stem cell transplant increases. In the United States, 1 in 217 people, or .46%, will have a stem cell transplant (not just need one, but have one) by age 70. Hence the cord blood that parents store from their baby might be of help to an immediate family member years from now. The cord blood is most likely to match first degree relatives: siblings and parents.
Inherited disorders: The odds of use quoted for the average person in the United States do not apply to some families and do not apply at all in other countries.
For example, some parents want cord blood banking because they have many relatives with an auto-immune disorder like multiple sclerosis, and they know that stem cell transplants show promise for auto-immune diseases.
In Asian countries where the inherited blood disorder thalassemia is prevalent, family cord blood banks are filling a public health need. Families can bank cord blood from a healthy baby to provide a sibling cord blood transplant to an older child with thalassemia. In Thailand we profiled a fertility clinic that helps parents of a child with thalassemia to conceive a matched savior sibling.
Regenerative medicine: Parents in the United States are most likely to need their baby's cord blood to treat pediatric neurological disorders such as: hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), apraxia, ataxia, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, autism, in-utero stoke, traumatic brain injury, and similar conditions. No one wants to imagine that their child might be born with a brain injury, but the reality is that it happens in 2 of 1,000 full term births and among pre-term boths it is 10 times more common; 2 in 100 premies or 2% have cerebral palsy. Another relatively prevalent condition that may benefit from trials of cord blood therapy is autism spectrum disorders, which impact 1 in 68 US children.
Please see our page about cord blood Odds of Use.
Lifetime Probability of Stem Cell Transplant in USA: Nietfeld JJ, Pasquini MC, Logan, BR, Verter, F, Horowitz MM 2008; BBMT 14(3)316–322 doi:10.1016/j.bbmt.2007.12.49
Medical publications about cord blood therapy for pediatric neurologic disorders:
Cotten M. et al. 2013; Pediatrics 164(5):973–979 doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.11.036
Liao, Y, Cotten, M, Tan, S, Kurtzberg, J & MS Cairo, MS 2013; Bone Marrow Transplantation 48:890-900 doi:10.1038/bmt.2012.169
Min et al. Stem Cells 2013; 31(3):581-591 doi: 10.1002/stem.1304
Sun, J et al. Transfusion Sept. 2010; 50(9):1980-1987 doi:10.1111/j.1537-2995.2010.02720.x
Sun JM et al. 2015; Pediatric Research 2015; 78:712–716 doi:10.1038/pr.2015.161