Genetic counselors' knowledge and perspectives of cord blood banking and stem cell therapies

Umbilical cord blood presents a unique opportunity to gather and preserve hematopoietic stem cells for possible treatment of many diseases, including genetic conditions. Ongoing clinical trials are revealing new uses for these stem cells everyday. Genetic counselors play a significant role in prenatal, pediatric and adult care for many patients and families who may benefit from learning about cord blood banking and therapies. This study reports on genetic counselors’ knowledge and opinions of cord blood banking and stem cell therapies, as well as how often and why they are talking to their patients about it. A survey was administered to members of the NSGC via an e-blast survey which assessed respondents’ factual knowledge on cord blood banking as well as their feelings about their own knowledge and need for education on the topic. Results revealed that as a group, genetic counselors have limited knowledge of cord blood banking and stem cell therapies. Most respondents were aware of their lack of knowledge, rating their own understanding of different aspects of cord blood banking as low in spite of their agreement that cord blood banking and stem cell therapies are topics with which genetic counselors should be familiar. The majority of study participants (67%) also indicated that they would find an educational booklet useful to their practice. These results highlight an area of need in genetic counselors’ education, and the authors provide ideas for focusing future education efforts of genetic counselors on the value of stem cell therapies and cord blood banking.