Placenta: The Final Frontier
July 5, 2007 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Virgin Health Bank : It's not what you think. Richard Branson has started a hybrid (pun intended) umbilical cord blood bank. There has been a fascinating ongoing debate over whether the blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells found in umbilical cords should be banked privately (for individual, autologous use, not accessible to public registries) or publically (for allogeneic use). Branson's alternative requires parents to split their cord blood unit: 80% for the public bank and 20% for their own private banking. The parents pay $3000 or so for their "biological insurance" and if anyone in the world needs the public portion of the cord blood unit, they can have it free-of-charge.
posted by scblackman (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I came across this topic while writing a talk on the public versus private debate. Despite all of the claims made by the private cord blood banks (e.g. Cryo-Cell, ViaCord, etc.), privately stored cord blood units are rarely used. In fact, the first autologous cord blood transplant for leukemia was reported just 6 months ago.
posted by scblackman at 11:46 PM on July 5, 2007

Do these cells last perpetually?

This is really interesting
posted by geodave at 11:53 PM on July 5, 2007

Nobody knows. There's no expiration date established. I've seen frozen cord blood units brought back from 10+ years. I don't know if I'd want one that old transplanted into me, but if I didn't have any other match, I suppose that I'd not have much of a choice.
posted by scblackman at 11:56 PM on July 5, 2007

I accept that I'm probably being dense here, but I can't see the pun here...

In other news, I have nothing to add.

posted by twine42 at 12:15 AM on July 6, 2007

I think they have it backwards. It should be free for the donors and cost money for the users. That way people have an incentive to donate - it is free and it could save your ass. Then it would be supported by the people who actually need the service but haven't donated.

At least until there is a critical mass of donors.
posted by srboisvert at 2:11 AM on July 6, 2007

This is a pretty damned odd coincidence. I just searched the ask archives for questions about cord blood banking roughly ten hours ago and came up with this post by mathowie when his little one was on the way. I e-mailed him to ask if a follow-up question would be appropriate to see if there's been any progress for the last two years (my wife's due in three weeks), and he instead got me in touch with the poster who gave the best answer in that thread.

I have nothing to add other than to remark the odd coincidence and the pure awesomeness of AskMe and the admins. Thanks!

On preview, I believe there are places you can donate free of charge. Banks that charge are making you pay essentially to support the business and guarantee that you'll get a withdrawal if you need it.

posted by middleclasstool at 8:14 AM on July 6, 2007

Even better coincidence: delfuego and I trained in the same program.
posted by scblackman at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2007

Good for Sir Branson. Private monies are needed for stem cell research. With President Bush's recent veto of the bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research many labs continue to face significant practical implications. They are required to set-up duplicate research facilities -- one for working with the 21 embryonic stem cell lines which are available for NIH funding; another for research on the expanding number of private or foreign-made embryonic stem cell lines. "As many as 400 new embryonic stem cell lines have since been developed worldwide, and many offer genetic diversity and other traits that researchers say they need to explore."* This duplication wastes millions of dollars. A friend at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute speaks of frustration in the additonal expense and added time that results in operating separate labs. Once again ideology over practicality.
posted by ericb at 9:01 AM on July 6, 2007

Even better coincidence: delfuego and I trained in the same program.

Circle of Life! Someone alert Elton John!

He's being extremely helpful and friendly to an internet stranger. I hope to buy him a beer one day as a thank you.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2007

The blood of a thousand Virgins.
posted by blacklite at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2007

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