Stem cells, used to regenerate a patient's immune system, can be removed from umbilical cord blood after a newborn's delivery without harm to mother or baby.
These cells are an increasingly popular alternative to stem cells obtained from bone marrow. Though scientists think they may be less versatile than stem cells from human embryos, cord blood stem cells do not carry any ethical implications. If not used for stem cells, cord blood usually is discarded in the delivery room as medical waste.
Parents can store their newborn's cord blood stem cells for their family's use with companies such as Cryo-Cell International Inc. in Clearwater and dozens of others. These private banks charge parents for the initial collection and processing, as well as an annual storage fee.
Public banks such as Cryobanks International Inc. and others accept donations from parents willing to allow their baby's cord blood to be used by others. The public bank covers all costs of donating and processing, making its money when the unit is sold for transplantation.