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The political and moral economy of umbilical cord blood banking

Cord blood banking has generated much political discussion in recent years, with an announcement of a Private Members Bill in 2008 and an All Party Parliamentary Group on Cord Blood and Adult Stem Cells established a year later.

In the past couple of years, working groups have been formed with the intention of developing a long term strategy for the future of cord blood in the UK in 2010. 

In particular, the expert strategic forum led by the NHS Blood and Transplant in collaboration with the Department of Health to develop a 10 year national plan relating to cord blood are due to report to the ministers and stakeholders by the end of 2010. This is pertinent given the increasing global trade of cord blood to overcome the shortage of bone marrow donors, and be used in transplants for those with leukaemia, sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia.

Cord blood collection looks set to increase, with the opening of a 5th donating site at an NHS hospital. Furthermore, £10 million pounds have been allocated in order to increase the public cord blood bank to 20,000 units by 2013. 

Similarly, commercial cord blood banks have increased their profile in the UK since the introduction of third party agreements between hospitals and banks. As a result, privately-employed phlebotomists have been given access to collect the cord blood as requested by pregnant women and stored for their own and familial use.

The collection and storage of biological resources and data has also commanded considerable sociological attention with respect to potentially new forms of regulatory, ethical and political economy. Consequently, we wish to explore the changing patterns in the organisation, donation and deposition of blood stem cells. Since Jan 2009, we have conducted interviews and focus groups with the following stakeholders:

  • The biological banking sector – both public and private – including site visits
  • Clinicians and Researchers – including maternity units, obstetric services and stem cell bioscience researchers
  • Policy makers and regulators – both at the UK domestic and European levels
  • Parents – interviews with actual and potential donors and depositors in umbilical cord blood stem cell banks

Please do not hesitate to contact us to receive further information on the project and its findings. 

Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council


Project Start Date: 04/01/2009
End Date: 03/01/2011

RES-062-23-1386

Contact us

Dr Laura Machin
Research Fellow
Department of Sociology
University of York
Heslington
York YO10 5DD

Telephone: +44 (0)1904 323060
Fax: +44 (0)1904 323043

Email: laura.machin@york.ac.uk

Dr Nik Brown
Reader
Department of Sociology
University of York
Heslington
York YO10 5DD

Telephone: +44 (0)1904 324741
Fax: +44 (0)1904 323043

Email: nik.brown@york.ac.uk