- Drew Barrymore kept blood from both her daughters’ umbilical cords.
- Stem cells can be used to treat conditions including some cancers and immune system diseases.
- But it costs a lot and it’s unlikely the saved stem cells will be used in most cases, experts say.
Drew Barrymore said she stored the blood from both of her daughters’ umbilical cords in order to save their stem cells.
The “Charlie’s Angels” actress banked her first daughter Olive’s cord blood after doctors told her about the potential benefits, and did the same for her second daughter Frankie, she said on “The Drew Barrymore Show” in a clip shared on May 18.
“It could have an impact on your family and even in some cases it could save your child’s life,” she said.
This is because stem cells can assume the form of other cells, and the fluid collected from the umbilical cord has 10 times more stem cells than that collected from bone marrow — another source of stem cells. They also rarely carry infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
Stem cells can be used to treat conditions such as certain immune system diseases, genetic and neurological disorders, and some forms of cancer.
Dr. Christine Sterling, an OB/GYN and spokesperson for the company Cord Blood Registry that preserves and stores stem cells, which sponsored the segment on the show, told Barrymore: “The umbilical cord is made up of tissue and contains blood, both of are rich sources of stem cells with the potential to act like our body’s own personal repair kit.”
“When you hear about something you can put in a bank to save you on another day, I immediately signed up both my daughters for it,” Barrymore said.
Private cord blood banking can be expensive and unnecessary
However, the usefulness of routine cord blood banking for individual patients has been questioned. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association say the costs of storing umbilical cord blood as a form of “biological insurance” are high and outweigh the benefits, partly because the blood may never be used. And if it is used, it’s more likely to go to a sibling, The Atlantic reported. However some families may hope that more treatments will become available in the future.
The likelihood that a child’s privately banked cord blood will be used by them is extremely low, according to WebMD, for instance because the genetic mutations that caused the disorder needing treatment would be present in the blood.
The AAP and AMA don’t recommend routine cord blood banking, but it could be useful in cases where a sibling has a condition that could be treated using stem cells.
The AAP said in 2017 that most professional bodies favor public cord blood banking over private, for reasons including that they are free to use and serve the general public. In contrast, private banks only serve the individual family and can cost thousands of dollars without any return.
Collecting the blood is painless for mother and baby
According to WebMD, to carry collect the blood, doctors will cut the cord separating the mother and baby after birth and collect 40 milliliters — just under an ounce and a half — of blood.
The blood is sealed in a bag and sent to storage, and the proceed ure is painless for the mother and baby.
Barrymore shared the story of two brothers whose parents kept their umbilical cord blood. When their youngest was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiencya condition that meant he had a very weak immune system, stem cells from his brother’s umbilical cord were used as a treatment, saving his life.