I had a conversation with a parent today. She has a little boy with PWS and is currently pregnant. She wanted to know if collecting and storing a cord blood sample from her soon to be born child would be helpful for researchers working on PWS. We asked a panel of 7 experts this question…
Is the cord blood of an unaffected sibling just the same as the general population, or is there a value add for PWS (research) in having the siblings cord blood?
The experts all agreed that, at this time, there are no particular research or health advantage for PWS from collecting and storing cord blood samples from unaffected siblings. As one expert put it:
“It’s very hard to predict which direction all this research will take – anything is possible, there is so much we still don’t know. But right now I don’t think there is a value add in collecting cord blood from an unaffected sibling.”
There are a range of arguments for and against storing an individual’s cord blood, including the potential to help understand any future health issues the sibling has. However, it can be costly and the benefits for the general population are largely undefined (future potential). Most research using cord blood cells as an intervention is aimed at brain injury rather than disorders where the brain cells don’t have the right genetic instructions available.
Although there are no PWS-specific advantages to storing cord blood, a number of the researchers we consulted did point out that regular (as opposed to cord) blood samples from siblings are very valuable in scientific studies. The siblings will share 50% of their genetics, making any future genetic or epigenetic comparisons easier. Blood samples from siblings are excellent controls – but they don’t need to be cord blood.