Dr. Irving Weissman: humankind's champion; lab rats' worst nightmare.

If you’re one of those weird parents who holds on to literal pieces of your newborn baby, like their umbilical cord, Dr. Irving Weissman, a leader in stem cell research in the United States, suggests you don’t pay thousands of dollars for someone to keep it on ice for you.

Recently, charlatan clinicians have been sweet-talking new parents into putting their neonate’s umbilical cords into ‘stem cell banks’ to the tune of $3,600+ in hopes of being able to use its cells later to cure potential illnesses.  As an insurance policy for your kids, you’re better off investing your money in a CD.  Dr. Weissman, an MD, scientist and all-around bad ass, has this to say on the matter:

“‘Umbilical cords contain blood-forming stem cells at a level that would maintain the blood-forming capacity of a very young child… They could also have derived mesenchymal cells — fiberglass-like cells that have a very limited capacity to make scar, bone, fat — but they don’t make brain, they don’t make blood, they don’t make heart, they don’t make skeletal muscle, despite what various people claim,’ he said.”

So, if you wanna hold onto those umbilical cords because you’re a weirdo, go ahead.  But if you think that one day it’s going to potentially save your child… well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re not there just yet.

It’ll be interesting to see over the next couple of months how the first FDA approved clinical trial turns out.  At the Medical College of Georgia, scientists will be evaluating the use of a child’s own cord blood stem cells as an intervention for cerebral palsy (Sources 5 and 6).  This study, however, seems to be (to the extreme layperson… me) conducted in a different context as people whose children are born with a preexisting condition could conceivably use their umbilical cords to immediately affect these types of brain disorders.  These parents are not paying thousands of dollars to have someone hold onto their child’s umbilical cords in hopes of using them later on for developing conditions.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6