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Shared Supply Could Help Meet Cord Blood Stem Cell Demand

But having only 80 percent of a sample available to public reduces utility for adults

FRIDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- In the United Kingdom, Virgin Health Bank's model of keeping one-fifth of cord blood for private use while making the remainder available for public use could help solve the supply problem, according to an analysis published in the March 22 issue of BMJ.

Nicholas M. Fisk, Ph.D., and Rifat Atun of Imperial College London, describe the low amount of umbilical cord blood altruistically donated to public banks in the United Kingdom, with fewer than 10,000 units stored so far. At the same time, traditional commercial banks dwell on the risk of childhood leukemia and other diseases as a selling point to parents to store their child's cord blood, and private cord blood banking has been almost universally opposed by expert groups and public authorities.

Virgin's public/private sharing model could address these obstacles, but having only 80 percent of a sample reduces its utility to adults requiring stem cell transplants, and customers could find the remaining 20 percent inadequate to isolate mesenchymal stem cells for regenerative use. Customers' access to the public component would downplay this disadvantage, the authors write.

"To succeed, Virgin will also need to get the support of midwives and obstetricians because they collect the blood and advise prospective customers," the authors write. "The charitable intent and public provision may help overturn entrenched professional opposition to commercial banking."

The authors disclosed ties to RevealCyte, OmniCyte, Ferring UK, Visbion and Medixine Oy.

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