有關的文章

Banking a little piece of mind

有關的文章 >>

Chantal and Grant Wong decided to store the stem cells of their children, as insurance in case they get seriously ill later in life, with a Burnaby company.
MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

By Wanda Chow - Burnaby NewsLeader
Published: February 10, 2010 6:00 PM
Source Article

Chantal Wong still remembers seeing the email at work.

A colleague was seeking potential bone marrow donors for their sick child. What made their case especially challenging was the parents were of different races, making it particularly difficult to find a matching donor.

She saw the implications for her own family–Chantal, 35, and her husband, Grant, 39, are both half Chinese and half Caucasian.

When she was pregnant with her first child, Emily, now two-and-a-half, Grant’s brother talked about the company he used to work for in the United States which stored stem-cell-rich blood harvested from umbilical cords.

Wong Family
Chantal and Grant Wong decided to store the stem cells of their children, as insurance in case they get seriously ill later in life, with a Burnaby company.
MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

The couple didn’t think twice about it.

The Coquitlam residents researched the service and discovered a similar company practically in their backyard, Lifebank, which operates out of lab facilities on the Burnaby campus of the B.C. Institute of Technology. It was just minutes away from Burnaby Hospital, where they planned to give birth.

Chantal said there is no history of disease in their families but they didn’t want to take any chances with Emily and their son Adam, aged seven months.

“If it turned out they did get something and we didn’t [store their cord blood] for a measly couple of thousand dollars, it would be heartbreaking.”

She noted that not only would the stem cells from their own cord blood be perfect matches for the kids, they could also potentially be a match for Chantal if needed.

Grant added, “It’s a type of insurance if you look at it that way.”


Lifebank started in 1996 by a local group who recognized the potential for the stem cell technology and research that had been a hot topic of discussion in medical and scientific circles since the first cord-blood stem cell transplant was performed in the U.S. in 1988, said Lifebank CEO Ernest Stacey.

Stem cells are like the building blocks of a person’s blood cells and immune system. The most common use for cord-blood stem cells is in transplants, often in cases of cancers like leukemia. It’s a less-invasive alternative to bone marrow and other types of blood transplants, and removes the challenges of first having to find a matching donor and the possibility of the body rejecting it.

Stem cells are also the subject of much research looking at how they can potentially be used to treat numerous diseases, from multiple sclerosis to Parkinson’s disease.

Stacey said of the 12,000 samples from around the world Lifebank has put into storage since the company started, clients have made use of them twice. In both cases, they were used in clinical trials of experimental therapies, one for Type 1 diabetes and another for cerebral palsy.

As research progresses, having the cord blood in storage “brings up options that you would never have thought of before.”

Lifebank’s service costs about $1,000 up front and then $125 a year after that. The cord blood is removed from the umbilical cord after a child’s birth, then delivered to Lifebank’s lab facilities where it’s processed and tested before being stored cryogenically, at -150 C or lower. Stacey says they have no expiry date and experts in the field have confirmed cord-blood stem cells can still be viable after being stored for 15 years or more.

“It’s pretty amazing what it can do,” Stacey said, noting that 80 to 120 ml could regenerate an entire bone marrow.

“We’re still throwing it out by the buckets,” he said of cord blood, as umbilical cords and placentas are destroyed after a child’s birth.

“That’s the sad part.”


It makes a lot of sense if there’s a history of leukemia in the family, or if there’s concern such as the mixed-race issue making finding a donor difficult, said Jeremy Snyder, bioethicist and assistant professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University. But beyond that, it’s less clear whether storing cord-blood stem cells is a cost-effective measure.

He’s concerned that people may purchase the service believing the cord-blood stem cells will eventually become a cure-all for a raft of serious diseases when such medical technology is far from reality right now.

“If [leukemia] is such a problem, while backed by the science for leukemia, maybe this is something the public should be involved in [through a government-run cord-blood bank],” said Snyder.

“Beyond that, it seems like there’s a danger of it being a private business that’s trying to prey on the fears of parents.”

For his part, Grant Wong, didn’t see it as a difficult decision for his two kids.

“It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com