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Med J Aust. 2008 May 5;188(9):533-5.

Umbilical cord blood banking: public good or private benefit?

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Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is an accepted curative therapy for many malignant and non-malignant conditions affecting children and adults. Where possible, stem cells for HSCT are provided by human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-matched, related donors. Only 30% of patients have a suitable matched donor; for other patients, donors are sought from bone marrow registries or public umbilical cord blood (UCB) banks. While public UCB banks have been established to support transplant programs in Australia and internationally, parents also have the option of storing their child's UCB in a private commercial UCB bank for personal or family use. In contrast with public UCB banks, there is little social or medical justification for private UCB banking, as it provides no benefit to the community and little benefit to parents (other than reassurance and amelioration of regret), due to the very low likelihood of requiring autologous UCB later in life. Should UCB prove to be beneficial for tissue repair or replacement in the management of degenerative disorders, such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease, then a stronger case may be made in support of commercial banking of UCB for personal use. This may have a major impact on public UCB programs.

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