In a growing effort to increase public awareness of the importance of storing adult stem cells that are derived from umbilical cord blood, the Cord Blood Registry (CBR) of California has designed a web-based, online education program for the general public.
Results of recent data reflecting dismal public ignorance about stem cells were presented at an international meeting on stem cell science and policy, at which particular emphasis was given to a proprietary, web-based education system developed by the CBR which is specifically designed to help improve public awareness about adult stem cells in general, and about cord blood preservation options in particular. Although the term "stem cells" is commonly and casually thrown around by the general public on a routine basis, there are very few members of the nonscientific lay public who actually understand the scientific facts of stem cells. For example, despite continued efforts by government agencies, consumer advocacy groups and private industry to educate the public about the medical benefits of banking cord blood stem cells, 9 out of 10 expectant mothers still do not bank their child’s umbilical cord blood at all. This web-based education system marks an important step in addressing and hopefully correcting this growing problem.
In a survey of people who had completed the education program, 93% indicated that the program had improved their understanding of stem cells, while 95% indicated that they were highly satisfied with the overall program. Additionally, the CBR invited physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers to provide feedback on the program, and reviews have been submitted by nearly 7,000 individuals from these fields. According to Kelly Harkey, M.D., M.P.H., an obstetrician and gynecologist, "It’s great to finally have an up-to-date, easy-to-understand resource to direct my patients to as they are weighing their cord blood options. Because educating patients about cord blood is encouraged in my state, it’s nice that at the end of the program patients are able to confirm they’ve been educated, which ensures my practice is compliant with state legislation."
According to Heather Brown, vice president of scientific and medical affairs at the CBR, "The goal of this cord blood education program is to help physicians and other labor and delivery specialists provide expecting parents with scientifically accurate information in a compelling format, so they can make an informed choice about the options for preserving their newborn’s cord blood stem cells. This web-based system offers many advantages in that it is accessible at any time of day, it’s easily shared with spouses and other family members, and can provide documentation of the patient’s education and informed choice, especially where public policy encourages or requires education."
As early as 2005, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) had recommended that pregnant women should be educated early in their pregnancies on the value of cord blood stem cells, in order to be able to make an informed decision about cord blood banking. Thus far, however, only 17 states have passed laws that implement the IOM guidelines on cord blood education.
Adult stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are among some of the most versatile and potent of all types of stem cells, yet they lack the inherent risks and dangers that characterize embryonic stem cells and even iPS cells. Furthermore, umbilical cord blood stem cells have already accumulated a well documented clinical history, having been used in the treatment of nearly 80 different diseases to date.
The online program is divided into categories which include descriptions of cord blood stem cells as well as the collection and storage processes, the use of cord blood in current medical treatments, recent and ongoing developments in new therapies, and storage options that are available to expectant parents. Video segments accompany the content along with personal stories from familes who describe how the banking of their own cord blood has impacted their lives.
As the world’s largest stem cell bank, the Cord Blood Registry is focused on the collection, processing and cryopreservation of adult stem cells that are collected from the umbilical cord blood of healthy, full-term newborns. CBR is accredited by the AABB (the American Association of Blood Banks) and is the family cord blood bank most recommended by obstetricians. As described in their press release, "The company has been profitable and cash flow positive from operations on a cumulative basis since 1999. CBR has processed and stored cord blood units for more than 300,000 newborns from around the world and has released more client cord blood units for specific therapeutic use than any other family cord blood bank. CBR is the leader in research and development efforts in collaboration with the world’s leading clinical researchers focused on advancing regenerative medical therapies using a child’s own cord blood stem cells. The company continues to enhance its industry-leading technical innovations for stem cell collection, processing and storage that optimize quality and cell yield."
If the public is unaware of such facts, however, then it’s a bit difficult for anyone to benefit from the availability of such services.
Hopefully, the "Online Patient Education Center for Cord Blood Banking", which may be viewed at www.cordblood.com/learn, will bring these facts to the attention of more people.