What would you say if you could take out a form of health insurance that could grow you new organs, reverse destructive autoimmune diseases, and even cure cancer?
These are just some of the promises that many scientists and medical experts believe stem cell therapy holds.
The NHS have already made their move toward making stem cell therapy a reality with their personalised medicine strategy, Obama has boosted US support by increasing tax payer investment into stem cell research, and in some countries it’s already possible to receive stem cell treatments at a local clinic.
It’s no wonder then that an increasing number of parents are looking to how they can capture their family’s own stem cells and ensure they’re best prepared for treatments in the future.
Over recent years a number of private stem cell banks have cropped up in order to offer this service and hope for families.
Two ways families can take out this incredible form of health insurance and store their stem cells is through umbilical cord blood banking and tooth stem cell banking.
Like with a bank account, you put stem cells away so that they’re safely stored, ready to be taken out when you need them. In most cases, the stem cells will be tested and cryogenically stored in a specialised and highly secure facility for a specified duration of time.
It all sounds too good to be true. But hold on just a moment; from the source of the stem cells and their type, to the way they’re extracted and how much the services cost, there’s a lot to consider when choosing to bank stem cells.
Here we hold both cord blood banking and tooth stem cell banking up to the light to discover the ins and outs of how they work, and what each of them have to offer you and your family.
Saving Newborn Stem Cells: Cord Blood Banking
Historically discarded with the placenta as medical waste, cord blood is the blood that’s collected from a new born baby’s umbilical cord.
For years cord blood banking services have offered families a way to take that extra step in safeguarding the health of their child and banking their stem cells, right from the moment of their birth.
Cord blood provides a rich source of stem cells, and has been used to help treat over 80 diseases, particularly of the blood—with leukemia being the most common.
The Collection and Storage Of Cord Blood
Banking cord blood can be done through either a public or private bank. Here we’ll look at the private option, which ensures the stem cells are fully owned by you and available for use at anytime.
The process gets underway by registering with a service at least a month before you have your baby. This is mainly so you have enough time to complete the relevant paperwork, submit your consent form, and receive the collection kit.
It’s also important to make sure it’s possible to perform the collection at your hospital. As not all maternity units have the same view about cord blood collection, stumbling blocks can appear and slow down or even halt the process. Any good cord blood bank should be on hand should you need their assistance.
The collection itself is done after the delivery of your baby by an appropriately qualified person, such as a midwife, nurse, doctor, or phlebotomist. It doesn’t interfere with any part of the delivery process and is completely safe for you and your baby.
The Cost Of Cord Blood Banking
The cost of the cord blood banking is broken down into either an up-front collection fee and a yearly rate for storage, or a one-off fee that covers everything.
Services which offer a one-off fee sit in the range of £1500-£2000 for 25 years of storage. This typically excludes a booking fee of around £300. Paying annually tends to cost a bit more, with an average fee of around £1000 to be paid up-front, and £100 each year then on.
A Precious And Limited Resource
Cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). This type of stem cell gives rise to all types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, and is therefore commonly used to treat patients—particularly children—with cancerous blood disorders. This is hugely beneficial for treated a wide range of disease, however, it does mean HSCs are limited in their therapeutic applications.
As the umbilical cord is a precious and limited resource, not every cord blood collection ends successfully. For example, if the volume of blood left in the umbilical cord is too low, or the blood clots during the collection, it may not be possible to obtain a sufficient amount for storage.
It’s important to collect a good volume of blood (at least 50ml) to have more chance of being viable for use in stem cell treatments. Concentrations of stem cells in cord blood are lower than in bone marrow, and thus—due to the limited amount—cord blood is largely used to treat children. To treat an adult, at least two units of cord blood would be necessary.
Tooth Stem Cell banking
In the early 2000s, a little over 20 years after finding them in cord blood, scientists discovered stem cells in our teeth.
Since then, several specialist tooth stem cell banking services have emerged, offering families the chance to collect and store their dental stem cells safely and affordably.
Having this option to bank stem cells long after the birth of a child is especially appealing for families who weren’t able to collect or store their baby’s cord blood stem cells when they were born, for example due to the limitations of the hospital, complications in collecting the blood, or cost barriers.
The Tooth Fairy Really Does Exist
As stem cells are healthier when we are young—having suffered little damage from the likes of pollution and ageing—tooth stem cells are generally extracted from a child’s baby/milk teeth. However, other teeth can be used, should they require removal for orthodontic purposes.
Joining a tooth stem cell bank can be done any time, even long before your child’s baby teeth are loose. After joining, a collection kit will be delivered to your door, with instructions of how to properly place any teeth in the packaging provided.
Once a tooth has fallen out or been removed, it must be immediately packaged and sent to the tooth bank to ensure the best chances of finding viable stem cells.
The stem cells are then extracted from the pulp of the teeth at the lab and cryogenically stored, before which confirmation will be made to you on the health and viability of the stem cells.
The Costs Of Tooth Stem Cell Banking
Much like the pricing structure of cord blood banks, tooth banks generally offer two options: an up-front fee along with monthly or yearly instalments, or pay all costs in one advance lump sum.
Depending on the bank, the length of the contract and payment options will vary. In general, you can expect to pay around £10 a month for high quality and secure storage.
Health Insurance With Limitless Potential
You may pay a little more to store stem cells from your teeth, however, there are several good reasons for this.
Tooth stem cells are quite different from those extracted from umbilical cords. They are known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—stem cells which have the ability to give rise to many cells in the body. They’ve been used in a wide range (and growing number) of therapeutic applications. One example of which is as a treatment for debilitating type 1 diabetes.
What’s more, unlike the umbilical cord, you don’t just have one tooth. There are actually 12 teeth—Central Incisors; Lateral Incisors; and Canines—which can be sent for testing. Therefore widening the chances of finding viable stem cells. Good tooth banking services repeat the process free of charge if the first time round it was not successful.
The best time to store stem cells is without a doubt when you are young. This makes cord blood and tooth stem cell banking two great options. Which one you choose for your child could depend on several factors, including your family history, conditions of birth, and awareness of new stem cell therapies, but whichever you do go for, we can assure it’ll be the best decision you’ll make for the future health of your family.
Prepare for the future of personalised medicine and stem cell therapy. Contact us today to find out how you can safeguard the health of your child by storing stem cells from their milk teeth.