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Know the difference: Family vs Community Cord Blood Banks

Know the difference: Family vs Community Cord Blood Banks

May 25, 2021
Dr. Lana du Plessis
May 25, 2021
Dr. Lana du Plessis

Private vs Cord Blood Banking: What you need to know

When parents are expecting a new baby, they  have many important and big decisions to make, especially when it involves your precious little person who is about to join your family.

It is important to do thorough research to allow you to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to cord blood banking.

A key question remains: Should you select private (family) or community cord blood banking?

Private and public banking each has its pros and cons, and it’s a good idea to consider the best option for your family before making your decision.

Private Cord Blood Banks

When storing umbilical cord blood stem cells in a  (private) cord blood bank, the parent/s pay a fee for the collection, transport, processing, testing and storage of the cord blood and cord tissue.  The storage period is a minimum of 20 years.

Cord blood and tissue stem cells stored in this setting are RESERVED EXCLUSIVELY FOR USE BY THE FAMILY and are available, without delay.

The stem cells are available to the family should they be required in clinical trials, such as for the treatment of neurological conditions including autism and cerebral palsy. The parents have full rights and access to the cells during the entire period of storage, should they be required for medical treatment.

A few other noteworthy considerations:

  • A high probability of a match: The child’s stem cells will be a perfect HLAmatch for themselves and there is a 25% chance of being a perfect match for a sibling.
  • HLA matching is included in the family storage package: Should the stem cells be required for a transplant, HLA matching will be paid for by the Family Cord Blood Bank.
  • No additional charges and the contract is straight forward: If cord blood stem cells are required for treatment from a Family Cord Blood Bank, there are no additional charges or fees for making the cord blood unit available to the patient at the Transplant Centre. Your contract stipulates no additional release charges.
  • Various treatment options available for the family: Autologous and allogeneic stem cell therapy have been used to treat more than 80 types of diseases including haematological and immunological disorders.

Community Cord Blood Banks

Donating cord blood to community cord blood banks is not ‘free’.

Someone must pay for the collection, transport, processing, testing and storage, whether it be the parents, a third party, or the State.

The collected cord blood stem cells are NOT RESERVED EXCLUSIVELY FOR USE BY THE CHILD OR THE FAMILY (the child or a sibling).  At any time during the storage period, parent/s may be informed of the planned use of the cord blood stem cells for a matched, unrelated patient. Should the parent/s not agree to the release of the stem cells to the unrelated patient, a substantial penalty fee will be applicable. 

A few other noteworthy considerations:

First come, first use: Should the cord blood stem cell unit be used for a matched, unrelated patient, it will no longer be available to the child or the family for use for established clinical treatments or in a clinical trial.  

  • No exclusive rights: A family that participates in a community programme gives up certain rights and potential access to the donated cord blood unit. The cord blood unit may be sold to a patient in need, who is granted full rights to use it for an established clinical indication or in a clinical trial.
  • Additional charges and costs: The cord blood unit may be made available to a patient in South Africa or abroad. Cord blood units imported into South Africa  can cost over R350,000 each. 

Contract is more complex: As with any agreement, it is important to read the fine print and be sure that terms and conditions are fully understood, particularly with regards to the availability (or lack of availability) of the stem cells and additional costs that may be incurred.

At CryoSave,  we currently only provide private stem cell banking.

Where to get additional information?

If you would like additional information or have any questions, please contact the CryoSave Medical or Laboratory Director, by calling 087 808 0170 or email

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