Many parents have decided to preserve their child’s umbilical stem cells so they can access the most advanced medical treatments now and into the future. However, what about the second child or third child? Should they also have their umbilical cord preserved or are the stem cells from the first child adequate for their treatment as well? Here are some facts to help you decide if all of your children should save the umbilical cord stem cells for all your children.
Advantages of Children Having their Own Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Stored
The biological material in the umbilical cord is an exact match to the child it came from. The DNA and red blood cells are a precise match to the donor, which can be an important advantage when there is potential for cell rejection after transplants. There is 100% compatibility between a child and their umbilical stem cells.
In contrast, there is a 25% chance of compatibility between siblings, a 50% chance of a partial match and a 25% chance of no match ('Cord Blood Banking for Potential Future Transplantation', 2007). So if one child encounters a disease like leukaemia, the cord blood stem cells of their brother or sister may be rejected. Problems involving red blood cell rejection are also more likely to occur between partial matches.
If more than one child has their cord blood stem cells available, there are more chances that a viable match can be found for another child, parent or grandparent. Not only will preserving stem cells help your children, it can help your entire family.
Despite the chances for rejection, many successful stem cell transplants have occurred between siblings. In fact, the world’s first successful umbilical cord blood transplant was between a brother and sister. In October 1988, Matthew Farrow, a 5-year-old boy suffering from Fanconi anaemia, received his newborn sister’s umbilical cord blood. The treatment was successful and Matthew is a happy husband and father today.
At the moment, many sibling transplants occur after the first child is diagnosed with a dangerous medical condition. A large paediatrics study found that from 50 cases involving privately banked stem cells, 41 cases involved the stem cells being used on a family member and in 36 of those cases the need for a transplant was known before the child was born. In some of those cases, the main reason the parents had another child was to obtain the valuable stem cells from the umbilical cord and save the life of the older child. If the umbilical cord stem cells were saved for every child the availability of 100% compatible stem cells would be guaranteed.
There is also some risk that a child’s own stem cells may be unsuitable for use. If a genetic anomaly has created the medical condition, that anomaly may also be present in the umbilical cord stem cells. In that situation, having a sibling’s umbilical stem cells available would be helpful.
Having the umbilical cord blood of each sibling stored offers your family more flexibility if stem cells are needed. Your children will have the highest chances of compatibility with their own stem cells, but having their sibling’s stem cells available may also be useful. Having more stem cells available may also be beneficial for both parents and grandparents, as medical research opens up many more treatment possibilities.