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As One Life Starts, Another May Be Saved
Date:10/7/2011

to wait a few minutes before clamping the cord and taking the sample, as that last-minute flow of blood into the newborn could have medical benefits.

Cord blood donation advocates say that's fine, as long as doctors don't wait too long to act.

"You can wait a minute or two," Verter said. "After that, the blood is just clotting in the cord. It's not going into the baby."

Once drawn, the cord blood is shipped promptly to a lab, where it is processed to separate out the stem cells. The cells are cryogenically stored at minus 192 degrees Celsius. "So this is not something you can do with your kitchen freezer," Verter said.

Some debate has arisen over whether a mother should donate her cord blood to a public bank or pay to privately bank it, just in case there is an illness in her family.

The advantage to private banking is that cord blood works like bone marrow, in that people who are related and therefore genetically matched will receive more benefit from the stem cells.

"It turns out that transplants from family members have a higher success rate than transplants from unrelated donors," Verter said. That suggests that a woman might want to consider privately banking the blood if her family has a history of illness, particularly blood-borne illnesses.

However, there are drawbacks. Banking cord blood is an expensive proposition. Companies charge $1,000 to $2,000 for initial processing, plus an annual storage fee of about $125, Verter said.

Also, if a family member is suffering from a blood-related genetic defect, banking may not do them any good, Halet said. The cord blood might carry the same genetic trait.

Donating to a public bank is free and makes the blood available to anyone who might need it. "It's a very powerful gift," Halet said.

Banked cord blood keeps for a very long time. "There have been children who have received a cord blood donation that was banked a decade before they were diagnosed," Verter s
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