Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is a source of stem cells for allogeneic haematopoietic transplantation in paediatric and adult patients with haematological malignancies and other indications. Voluntary donation is the basis for the success of unrelated UCB transplantation programmes. In the last few years a growing number of private banks offer their services to expectant parents, to store UCB for future use. The debate concerning UCB donation and private preservation has been ongoing for several years. The aims of this single centre study were to explore knowledge about UCB stem cells and attitudes towards voluntary UCB donation or private UCB preservation among both blood donors and pregnant women.
Materials and methods.
This study was conducted at the “Sapienza” University of Rome. Two types of anonymous questionnaires were prepared: one type was administered to 1,000 blood donors while the other type was distributed to 300 pregnant women.
Most blood donors as well as the majority of pregnant women had some general knowledge about UCB (89% and 93%, respectively) and were aware of the possibility of donating it (82% and 95%). However, the level of knowledge regarding current therapeutic use resulted generally low, only 91 (10%) among informed blood donors and 69 (31%) among informed pregnant women gave a correct answer. The survey revealed a preference for voluntary donation both among blood donors (76%) and among pregnant woman (55%). Indeed, a minority of blood donors (6.5%) and of pregnant women (9%) would opt to store UCB for private use.
The study raises the following considerations: (i) the large support for UCB donation expressed by blood donors and by pregnant women suggests that UCB preservation does not represent an obstacle to the expansion of UCB donation and to development of unrelated transplantation programmes; (ii) information about UCB donation and preservation should be carefully given by professionals and institutions.