NEW YORK, Oct. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Americord Registry, a leader in the advancement of cord blood and placenta stem cell preservation, has launched a reimbursement program for parents of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other acquired neurological conditions, such as perinatal asphyxia or brain damage, caused by oxygen deprivation during birth.
Americord will reimburse the full cost of cord blood processing and storage should it be required by participants in clinical trials such as the trials lead by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg’s group at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Kurtzberg, who originally co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement against private cord blood banking, is now an active advocate of private cord blood banking and is conducting the largest trials using (autologous) cord blood within the same child. The cost of those trials, along with the cost collecting and storing stem cells is often not fully covered by insurance or other third parties.
“There have been incredible breakthroughs in the use of stem cells to treat a variety of illnesses, and we believe preliminary research into the use of stem cells to treat cerebral palsy and other acquired neurological disorders represents a new application that could greatly improve the quality of life for those who have these diseases,” said Martin Smithmyer, President and CEO of Americord. “Our mission at Americord is to not only advance the science of collecting and preserving stem cells but to help families access new and emerging stem cell treatments.”
Cerebral palsy describes a group of disorders that are caused by damage to a child’s brain during the early stages of fetal development or during the birth process. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, doctors at Duke University have been able to help patients with this condition by re-infusing their own cord blood if it was stored at birth, presumably helping to repair brain tissue previously damaged by a lack of oxygen.
“While it is well known that premature babies have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy, at present there is no national program to encourage expectant mothers in high risk pregnancies to consider banking cord blood,” said Dr. Frances Verter, Founder and Executive Director of the Parents’ Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides free educational materials about cord blood stem cells and cord blood banks to expecting parents.
In addition to the cost of collecting and storing stem cells, there are many expenses associated with participating in experimental medical treatments, such as the clinical trials at Duke, or receiving treatment for cerebral palsy and other brain-related injuries. Families are often responsible for travel, lodging, and medical costs not covered by insurance, which can exceed $10,000 for the three days of treatment.
“Americord was founded in part to reduce the limitations that are inherent to the cord blood banking industry, and cost is a factor for many families,” said Dr. Robert Dracker, Medical Director for Americord. “The reimbursement program gives us an opportunity to help families who most need this assistance while actively participating in the advancement of stem cell research.”
Stem cells have proven effective in treating more than 75 illnesses, including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia, with more uses being developed at a rapid pace.
“As more stem cell therapies become available, cord blood banking will become increasingly important,” Dr. Dracker added. “Americord is leading the advancement of new collection methods that may preserve up to 10 times more stem cells than traditional methods, providing more treatment options to a greater number of patients than was previously possible.”