It’s been touted as a miracle “insurance” — but some experts say blood banking may not be worth the money and time.
Drew Barrymore recently revealed that she saved blood from both of her daughters’ umbilical cords in order to salvage their stem cells after being told by her doctor that it could potentially be a lifesaver for her own children.
“It could have an impact on your family and even in some cases it could save your child’s life,” she said in a clip from “The Drew Barrymore Show” that was shared last week.
Cord banking entails storing the blood from the umbilical cord so it can be used later to treat diseases, with many storage companies likening it to a “biological insurance policy” — just in case anything happens later in life that the precious cells are needed for.
Stem cells collected from an umbilical cord — as opposed to bone marrow — are particularly useful, as they can work even if some of the proteins don’t match, meaning more people can use them, as well as benefit from a shorter processing time.
According to Dr. Christine Sterling, an OB/GYN and spokesperson for stem storage company Cord Blood Registry (CBR) — which sponsored the segment on Barrymore’s show — the umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells with the potential to act like a “body’s own personal repair kit.”
Drew Barrymore recently revealed that she saved blood from both of her daughters’ umbilical cords in order to salvage their stem cells after being told by her doctor that it could potentially be a lifesaver for her own children.The Drew Barrymore Show
Drew Barrymore is shown with her children, Olive Barrymore Kopelman and Frankie Barrymore Kopelman, in 2014.Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images
However, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association say the potential benefits of storing umbilical cord blood as “insurance” are outweighed by the high cost of storing blood that may never be used.
Initial collection and processing alone could cost up to $3,000, according to a 2022 Forbes story and, after that, annual storage fees could reach $1,300 — or more.
Stem cells can be utilized to treat certain conditions — such as some blood and immune disorders — and scientists have long hypothesized their use in therapies to treat spinal cord injuries, some forms of cancer and even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.
“Charlie’s Angels” star Drew Barrymore has two daughters with her ex-husband, Will Kopelman.drewbarrymore/Instagram
However, a report published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy on May 4 emphasized that those forms of treatments are not yet approved, warning consumers about spending money for the therapies and urging regulators to pause the sale of those products until they can be tested in clinical trials.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved stem cell therapies to treat immune system disorders like leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.
Some clinics, though, have been advertising stem cell therapies to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and hair loss and as anti-aging treatments — with little evidence of safety and efficacy.
Drew Barrymore walks with her two daughters in this undated photo.Bauer-Griffin / SplashNews.com
If the stem cells are used, they’re more likely to go to a sibling than the person from whom they were taken, according to a cautionary 2022 article in The Atlantic.
However, some families still keep the cells in case more treatments should become available in the future.