n Obstetrics and Gynaecology Forum - Umbilical cord blood stem cells : interesting history tainted with debate and controversy : review

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1027-9148



The history of stem cells is interesting and is tainted with debate and controversy as it has been the cause of heated debate between religious groups, scientists, the public and governments. There are two types of stem cell transplants - autologous and allogeneic. An autologous stem cell transplant is one in which the patient receives stem cells from his own blood, whereas an allogeneic transplant is one where the patient receives stem cells from a donor. Umbilical cord blood contains a multiplicity of cell types, including stem cells. Umbilical cord blood can potentially be used for autologous transplantation, allogeneic transplantation of family members or allogeneic transplantation of unrelated individuals to treat a number of diseases such as certain cancers, haematological diseases, genetic immunodeficiency states, to name a few. In some countries public cord blood banks have been established which focus on making tissue available to unrelated individuals (the most cost-effective use). In South Africa, there is no public cord blood bank and private companies provide cord blood banking for possible autologous or in-family use. With the costs involved in private cord blood banking this facility is only available to the privileged few, with the real risk of parents who cannot afford it going out of their way to procure the funds needed. Directed donation of umbilical cord blood should only be considered for families at high risk of certain genetic and haematological diseases that could potentially benefit from stem cell therapy. The storing of cord blood for "biological insurance" in low risk families should be strongly discouraged.Parents who ask for information about umbilical cord blood banking should get unbiased and accurate information regarding the advantages and disadvantages and any conflict of interest should be disclosed. Parents should never compromise themselves financially in order to store cord blood and at no stage should there be deviation from sound medical practice in order to collect cord blood.

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