Private blood banks charging parents thousands of dollars to store their babies' umbilical cord blood should be subject to official controls, the Consumer Council said. Questions about who owned blood stored in a private bank, what compensation there would be in case of a lab accident and what consumers got for their money remained, spokesman Dr Lo Chi-kin said. 'It's like any new medical technology, like test-tube babies or cloning,' he said. 'We're not able to predict what will happen. We recommend further study on this.' Dr Lo said many expectant parents had been inquiring about Sha Tin-based Cryolife, which offers to freeze cord blood in case the baby needs it later in life. Cryolife, set up in January last year and claiming to offer the only service of its kind in Asia, charges $23,000 to collect, process, freeze and keep cord blood for 18 years if the fee is paid in advance. It would cost $29,600 if storage was paid annually. Stem cells found in cord blood can be used to treat leukaemia, lymphoma and aplastic anaemia by mimicking the effect of a bone marrow transplant. Apart from being less invasive than a bone marrow transplant, there is a lower risk of rejection if the blood is given to another patient. Cryolife charges an extra $20,000 if the blood needs to be withdrawn. Since April 1996, new mothers at four public hospitals have been asked to donate their babies' cord blood to a blood bank managed by the Red Cross. A Department of Health spokesman said several cord blood transfers had been performed on leukaemia and thalassemia patients, but the likelihood of someone needing to use their own stored cord blood was 'remote'. The Government was monitoring developments in biotechnology 'to see if there is a need for more stringent control'. A Cryolife spokesman said the company followed US Food and Drug Administration guidelines. 'But we strongly believe there should be some sort of [local] regulations in this area,' he said.