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    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Virgin Stem Cells: Virgin founder Richard Branson is branching out into stem cell banking. The move is sparking controversy:

    The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it strongly supported the need for an increase in public banks and international accessibility, which the Virgin Health Bank sets as one of its priorities.

    But it said a prime concern remained the process of collection of the cord blood and the health of mother and baby.

    An RCOG report published last year advised doctors and midwives not to take part in the blood collection as they needed to focus on the welfare of the mother and baby.

    Saving blood from an umbilical cord at a baby's birth for future use is not a new idea. There are companies that do this. The concern is that the companies are profiting from a service of questionable value. It certainly doesn't harm the child to take blood from its umbilical cord, but it does take a lot of money. Professional organizations are understandably reluctant to endorse it. An endorsement would be a boon to the industry. It's not worth the money, unless a family has a known genetic disease that can be cured with cord blood. The chances of any one baby growing up to develop a disease treatable with the stem cells is low. That may change as stem cell research progresses, but for now, it's just an expensive security blanket.


    posted by Sydney on 2/01/2007 08:51:00 AM 3 comments


    I agree it's an expensive security blanket, but it's one that my wife and I have purchased for both our kids (one born April 2005, the other arriving in three weeks). Given that it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we felt it would be prudent.

    By Blogger Bob, at 3:28 PM  

    The vast majority of successful cord blood transplants have been done with blood from public banks. Of those that have been done with private banks, nearly all transplants have gone to an older sibling with a known, pre-existing disease.

    Furthermore, when they do go looking for a match, public banks find they have to pitch out most cord blood samples because they don't have enough stem cells in them. And patients with genetic disorders with banked blood have had those samples go unused because they are presumed to contain the same defect the individual already has. For these and many other reasons, ACOG continues to discourage private banking. Public blood banks are the way to go, but funding is (as always) a problem.

    Having said that, if people would like to spend their money in this way, fine. It's a free country. And this statement is just disingenuous:

    An RCOG report published last year advised doctors and midwives not to take part in the blood collection as they needed to focus on the welfare of the mother and baby.

    It's really an easy procedure. If the mother or baby is unstable, one just forgoes the procedure. I bet if the blood was destined for a public bank, the RCOG would retract that statement.

    By Anonymous danie, at 6:06 PM  

    Hi Danie,

    I think you will find that the Virgin Bank does have a public component and addresses the issues you raise. Seems pretty clever to me.

    By Anonymous danny, at 11:29 AM  

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