08 January 2008

Umbilical Cord Blood Use

MP David Burrowes wants doctors to offer parents the option of storing their baby's umbilical cord blood. At present, the NHS takes about 2,000 samples each year and around 10,000 people are said to have been cured of blood cell disorders using this cord blood. However, there have been cases where the cord blood bank has struggled to find matches, especially among ethnic minority groups. From that perspective, increasing the size of the bank seems like a sensible proposal.

I note, though, that it is also hoped that the stem cells contained in cord blood might one day be used to treat diseases such as leukaemia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Given the questions that many still have over stem cell research, as with proposed ideas to tackle the shortage of organ donors, there is an issue of presumed consent. There would therefore need to be a clear distinction made between permission for storage only and additional permission for use of the cord blood in research.