Richard Branson launches Virgin Health Bank – the socially responsible way to store your baby’s cord blood?
The Virgin Group has launched a new business – Virgin Health Bank – where, for £1500 parents can store their baby’s umbilical cord blood for potential stem cell use to treat certain blood disorders. But unlike other private stem cell storage companies, Virgin Health Bank splits the cord blood and keeps some exclusively for the individual parents’ use, and stores some in a public blood bank, available to everyone.
The Virgin Group’s profits from the business are being used to fund more research into the technology. “Over the last few years I’ve received many letters from distraught parents who were unable to find either bone marrow or stem cell matches for their sick children,” said Mr Branson. “We know the NHS has limited funds and can only do so much. This is why we believe that the dual – private and public – approach is the best way to help alleviate this situation.”
In the last 18 years more than 7000 patients have been treated with cord blood stem cells transplantations in over 150 countries. “The UK is lagging behind,” says Professor Stephen Proctor, a Haematological Oncology expert at Newcastle University. “Anything which raises awareness and adoption of the use of cord stem cells will be incredibly valuable.”
The collection procedure is simple and painless, but must take place within minutes of your baby’s birth. This is still causing some concern amongst doctors and midwives, who insist that nothing should detract from the care given to the baby and mother straight after childbirth.
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