Umbilical Cord Blood Banks: Biological Investments for Parents Public and private laboratories in the United States and across the world have started umbilical cord blood banks. Umbilical cord blood is retrieved from newly ejected placentas and cryogenically stored (frozen at very cold temperatures). Stem cells can be extracted from the cord blood for research and disease treatment therapies. The purpose of this process is to provide researchers with stem cells to address genetic and non-genetic illnesses, injuries, and diseases in children and young adults. Umbilical Cord Blood Banks and Research Laboratories Parents have the option to donate the newborn’s umbilical cord blood to public access cord blood banks or to deposit the blood into a private bank for their baby in case their child needs medical treatment. Umbilical cord blood stored in public banks can be used for any patient that is a match. Private banks are for the exclusive use for parents and their child. Cord Blood Banks: How They Work Parents decide to deposit the newborn’s umbilical cord blood to a public or private bank. Public banks are for the greater good of helping anyone who needs stem cells. Private banks charge a collection and service fee for freezing and storing the cord blood. Private banks provide parents with exclusive access to their child’s cord blood and stem cells. Patient confidentiality is usually assured via barcode labeling. Patient names are not typically on cord blood samples. Stem cells are harvested from the umbilical cord blood. The stem cells are “turned on” in the laboratory to grow specific types of human cells. Stem cells are used for various cancer treatment therapies, immunodeficiency disorders, metabolic disorders and bone marrow conditions. Stem Cell Research Ethics Science and medical ethics always poses the question regarding technology usage. “We have the ability to conduct genetic, etc. research, but should we use it?” There is a great deal of controversy in stem cell research, especially surrounding stem cells harvested from aborted fetuses. This argument may never be resolved. Umbilical cord blood was usually discarded with the placenta after the mother gave birth. Advances in cell biology and gene therapies created a new field of cancer treatment research. Since cord blood contains stem cells that would have been otherwise discarded are being used for research, the ethics issues are less obvious and in a gray area. Expecting Parents: Please Make a Biological Deposit in an Umbilical Cord Blood Bank Expecting parents should consider the umbilical cord blood program, whether for public or private donation and access. The public or private cord blood bank decision is completely a matter of personal choice. There are no wrong answers, since their child or someone else’s child may benefit from the contribution. When parents choose to deposit the umbilical cord blood, there is a chance that it may help someone and possibly save a life in the process. Expecting parents, please consider saving the umbilical cord blood after your child is born. Biological investments are equally important, perhaps, even more so than financial investments.