This is a frequent question from expectant parents and those who have already committed to cord blood banking.
Stem cells that are isolated from cord blood are multi potential stem cells and are called hematopoietic stem cells. This means that they can generate different types of blood cells and immune cells of the body.
The main potential of these cells is their ability to be used as treatment sources for blood disorders such as cancer. Since cord blood cells are isolated through a noninvasive procedure, they are far more attractive than the alternative bone marrow cells.
Just recently scientists have started exploring the potential of these cells in treating other types of disease, but this research is at very early stages. Further research is needed to prove the hypothetical potential of these cells for treating other types of disease.
It is important to say that the probability of someone needing to use their own cord blood for disease treatment is really slim. (4 in every 10,000)* Additionally, if the baby develops cancer or a genetic disorder later in life, chances are that the cord blood stem cells already carry that disorder in their genetic makeup. Plus, in many cases more than one cord blood unit needs to be used to provide the required amount of cells. Thus, while many scientists do not recommend storing cord blood in private cord blood banks, they do encourage parents to consider donating to public banks.
Public banks hope to gather more diverse set of samples that can be used to match nonnative patients and minorities who usually have a smaller chance of finding a match in the bone marrow banks.
There are some factors for parents to consider before comitting to banking their cord blood which are nicely discussed in the following blog:
The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplant.
Link from KidsHealth.
To sum up: Cord Blood Banking is promising and stem cells available in cord blood are a better alternative source for cells needed for cellular treatment of genetic disorders and cancer of the blood system, and immune system. However, further research is needed, which is happening now, to explore the potential of these cells in treatment of neurological disease, stroke, etc.