In a landmark ruling this week, a French court granted permission for a pregnant couple to store their baby’s stem cells. The parents argued that due to a family history of terminal illness and other serious hereditary diseases, they should be able to keep the stem cells in case they prove useful in the future.
Up until now strict French laws have prevented parents in France from harvesting their baby’s stem cells. In fact, no institution is allowed to keep blood samples for an individual “just in case’ medical advances may one day render them useful.
Professor Ibrahim Yakoub-Agha, a haematologist at Lille University Hospital, said medical professionals in France were concerned that the court’s decision could represent a president.
For many parents, cord blood banking is seen as an investment in the future health of their child and it is estimated that 1 in 3 people will benefit from a regenerative treatment in their lifetime. In fact, stem cells are currently being investigated in clinical trial to treat very common conditions like heart attack, stroke, cartilage damage, bone injury, burns, ulcers and many others.
Stem cells from umbilical cord blood are the most powerful that a person will ever have. This is because they decline in both potency and number with age and stem cells from a baby’s cord blood are the youngest available. However, there is only one chance to collect them – at birth, which is why many French parents are so passionate that they gain the right to do so.
It is welcome news that the French court recognised the potential of cord blood stem cells when he cleared the family to collect the umbilical and placental blood as a “wholly justified therapeutic necessity”.