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Opinion No 19 - Ethical aspects of umbilical cord blood banking



The Group is issuing an Opinion on the ethical aspects of cord blood banking following a request from President Prodi in 2001. Concerns on commercial cord blood banks were also expressed in questions from members of the European Parliament to the European Commission. There are concerns namely about the fact that promises about the benefits of cord blood transplantations to treat a number of diseases were made to convince future parents to store cord blood from newborn babies against payment with a view to using it to treat a disease incurred by the child or one of his family members and for which there is at present no medical evidence for the validity of the treatment.
Since 1988 it has been shown that the haematopoietic stem cells present in the blood of the umbilical cord can be used for allogeneic transplantation in a number of genetic diseases, blood malignancies and immune deficiencies, for example leukaemia. After transplantation, the haematopoietic stem cells can repopulate the bone marrow of the patient, providing a source of blood cells. It currently constitutes an increasingly used alternative to bone marrow transplantation.
In order to have cord blood cells available for transplantation a number of banks were created worldwide. These banks are run by either hospitals or non-profit organizations that collect the samples from donors and provide them when the cells are needed for transplantation.
Recently, private firms have been offering to future parents the conservation of blood from the umbilical cord of newborn children for one�s own use or for the use of close relatives. Different types of cord blood banks can be distinguished : private or public, for-profit or non-profit.
In this opinion, the Group considered: 1. Public banks that store cord blood cells [...] and provide them when transplantation is prescribed and 2. Private banks that offer a [...] service to parents in order to preserve the cells to be used for their children in the future.

Additional information

Authors: PUIGDOMENECH ROSELL P, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, Brussels (BE);VIRT G, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, Brussels (BE)
Bibliographic Reference: Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2004, 179 pp., free of charge
Availability: EUR-OP reference: KA-40-01-561-2A-C Available from European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, Brey 10/128, B-1049 Brussels, Email:
ISBN: ISBN 92-894-7439-4
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