You buy insurance for your car, your house, your business, your health—even your life—as a financial buffer against the unforeseeable. So why not invest in a different kind of insurance, one that gives not just your child but your whole family a contingency against health problems—for issues like cancer, diabetes, brain damage, or heart disease—that can come up later in life?
CordLife Ltd., out of Singapore, offers you the chance to do exactly that, and in a cheaper way than before, having opened their first cord blood processing and cryopreservation facility in the Philippines. Pinay mothers have already been using this service out of the Singapore facility, including actress Giselle Sanchez and TV personality Tintin Bersola-Babao, but now that this service is available in the Philippines, it's more accessible and more affordable!
Now, at this point, you may be going, “The what, what, and what facility?” Well, read on for a crash course in what exactly is being offered here.
WHAT IS CORD BLOOD CRYOPRESERVATION?
Cryopreservation is a six-syllable word you aren’t going to hear every day. But you’re hearing it today. What is it? In the simplest terms, it means preserving cells or tissues by cooling them down to low sub-zero temperatures, usually using liquid nitrogen, in order to make sure that these are effectively frozen in time.
Maybe it sounds a little sci-fi to you—maybe you’re thinking back to Mel Gibson’s character being frozen then revivified after 50 years in the 1992 movie Forever Young. We wouldn’t blame you if you are. But what CordLife is offering parents around the country is certainly not science fiction.
The company provides you with the facilities to process and store the blood extracted from your baby’s umbilical cord, which is rich in potentially life-saving stem cells. Using cryopreservation to store the cord blood means that these stem cells have the best chance of maintaining a high viability rate for a theoretically indefinite number of years—and we say theoretically only because the technology is fairly new and a statement like that can only be proven true over time.
But why do it? Let’s tell you a little bit more about stem cells and cord blood.
GETTING SAVVY ON STEM CELLS: LITTLE UNITS OF HOPE
The term “stem cells” isn’t quite as new as it was 20—even ten—years ago, but thanks to the diversity of stem cells’ applications and some moral issues that plagued the manner in which they can be harvested and used, you may not be too familiar with what exactly these babies can do for your baby.
First off, what are they? As Dr. Cherie Daly, the head of CordLife’s group medical affairs, explained during the launch of the facility, stem cells are the basic building blocks of body tissues—they have a natural capability to help build new tissues and repair damaged ones.
This is why they have been used to treat over 80 different conditions like leukemia and lymphoma, and there are on-going active research and clinical trials on using stem cells for juvenile diabetes mellitus type 1, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and so on. Quite a few of these conditions can be fatal or can greatly impair quality of life, so while stem cells may not always be able to cure them, they can certainly help mitigate some of the symptoms, improve quality of life, and buy a little more time for the people who have been afflicted with them.
WHY STORE CORD BLOOD?
You probably have an idea of the answer to this question by now: if you can store the stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord indefinitely, should your child develop one of the diseases that stem cells can help treat, then you would be able to use the stem cells you stored on the day he or she was born to help him or her get better—even if this is years and years later.
As actress Giselle Sanchez testified when explaining her decision to invest in cord blood cryopreservation, “These days, you can never really know what disease your baby or family could get along the way. With children as young as five years old suffering from leukemia or some other disease we never imagined they would get, we just have to be ready for whatever could happen in the future.”
Sanchez goes on to say that her only regret about cord blood banking is not knowing about the option early enough to avail of it for her first child. “The crucial thing here is that we are only given this one chance to do this—only at birth, and after the umbilical cord is cut,” she says. “It’s quite unfortunate that I only knew about cord blood banking and its benefits recently. Luckily for me, I was able to come across cord blood banking in time for the coming of my second baby, Zappa.”
Insuring your child’s future health is a very big consideration when you’re planning to avail of a service like the one CordLife has to offer. But there are other benefits to storing cord blood. Here are just a few:
You can have the stem cells available whenever you need them.
This means not having to search for a compatible donor, and it means that in a pinch, you’ll be able to access the stem cells for transplantation whenever you need them. That’s not just convenience—that could mean the difference between life and death.
There is a reduced chance of the transplanted stem cells being rejected.
Once transplanted into your child’s body—a process, by the way, that usually takes around 20 minutes and works like a simple blood transfusion—the stem cells are accepted by the body much more easily than another donor’s stem cells extracted from the marrow or peripheral blood would be. This is because the stem cells being infused are your child’s and not anyone else’s, and therefore recognized as part of your child’s body, reducing the risk of having it be detected as an alien element, which may trigger the immune system to attack the transplanted cells.
Extracting stem cells from cord blood is completely safe and noninvasive.
Stem cells can be collected from periphery blood, fatty tissues, and bone marrow as well as umbilical cords. However, the comfort advantage of using cord blood is that this is extracted only after the umbilical cord has been cut and your baby has been taken away. This means that there is no risk of injury to your baby, and these priceless stem cells are taken from something that would only be thrown away, otherwise.
Other members of your family may be able to use the stem cells as well.
While it’s your baby’s cord blood being stored, this doesn’t mean that this is insurance for just the one child. Because stem cells can be used to treat conditions in people with compatible blood types (something that is most common among close family members), you can potentially use this in case you or your spouse or one of your other children should develop a condition treatable with stem cells.
Also, while stem cells harvested from other sources like bone marrow or peripheral blood can be donated by family, these must have a very close match in order to be considered compatible: six out of six. Stem cells from cord blood, not having undergone the deterioration that comes with aging, can be used even with a three or four out of six marker match. This means that these may be used not only to help parents and siblings, but also more distant relations like cousins.
CORDLIFE’S SERVICES: PROCESSING AND STORAGE
Sold on cord blood storage yet? You might be wondering how you can avail of it when you’re ready to have a baby—or another one, if you’re already a mother. Here are some details you may want to know:
How much does it cost?
CordLife charges an initial enrollment and processing fee of P40,000 and a retainer fee of P8,000 yearly for the upkeep of storing the cord blood. The initial fee covers the transportation of the cord blood sample within Metro Manila, but additional charges may apply for provincial customers.
How does it work?
When you’re in labor, you’ll have to contact CordLife so they can send a courier down to the hospital where you’ll be giving birth. Once your baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut—preferably even before the placenta comes out, your OB-GYN will extract as much of the stem-cell rich blood from the umbilical cord as possible before discarding it.
This will then be given to the medical courier, who will deliver it to the CordLife facility on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, where the blood will be tested for the amount of viable stem cells in it, processed, and then stored in the on-site cryopreservation tanks.
Your baby’s cord blood will be banked there for as long as you are willing to pay the yearly premium or until you need it. If and when you do need it, you can inform CordLife two weeks before the transplantation is to take place, and you’ll be able to retrieve the cord blood for use.
Who owns the cord blood?
You do—until your child is of age. This is to say that since the cord blood sample is your child’s, you as his or her parent or legal guardian, will be in charge of making the decisions regarding the stored blood. Once your child gains legal age, this can become his or her property. However, as the child’s parent, you will still have the option not to pass ownership on to your child if you will still be the one paying for it.
Does collecting cord blood pose any moral or medical risks to me or my baby?
In a word? No. While stem cells have, in the past, been extracted from embryos, resulting in abortions, this is not the case with cord blood extraction. In this case, the stem-cell rich blood is collected from the umbilical cord—which is normally just thrown away after it is cut. Also, since the blood is collected from the cord after it has been cut, there is no risk that harm will come to you or your child as a result of the extraction.
Okay, I’m interested—now how do I get in touch with CordLife?
You can ask at your local hospital or bring it up at your next OB-GYN appointment. CordLife has partnerships with the Asian Hospital, but it has also disseminated information about its services to hospitals around the country.
You can contact CordLife directly by visiting their website or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call CordLife at (02) 710-9195 or visit or mail the company at the following address:
CordLife Medical Phils. Inc.
Unit 101, Building H, UP AyalaLand TechnoHub,
Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines