Parents can now donate their newborn’s cord blood for use by any patient or store it for their own use. For the first time, Narayana Hrudayalaya has initiated the combined cord blood repository with both public and private banking facilities.
Cord blood stem cells from a child are used to treat diseases like thalaseemia, a condition where the body has fewer healthy red blood cells and less haemoglobin than normal and Faconi, an inherited anaemia that leads to bone marrow failure. These cells could be used to cure these diseases in siblings and even in parents provided the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type matches.
If they need to bank a child’s cord blood, a decision needs to be taken about 2-3 months before the expected date of delivery. This helps to collect the cord blood and tissue immediately after delivery. The entire collection process has to be completed within 5 minutes of delivery of the child. The process is simple and can be done by any qualified obstetrician or a trained nurse and does not affect the health of either the newborn child or the mother. Otherwise, it’s difficult to collect and store the cells.
Dr Prem Anand Nagaraja, director, Narayana Hrudayalaya Tissue Bank and Stem Cell Research Centre, Bangalore, said: “Cord blood is obtained from the wasted placenta and umbilical cord at the time of childbirth. After the child is born and the cord is divided, residual blood in the placental circulation is collected using sterile procedures. The remaining umbilical cord is delivered and discarded. Stem cells extracted from this cord blood as well as cord tissue can be preserved for a long time in liquid nitrogen and used to treat many diseases and cure patients.”
Four-year-old Mayur is suffering from Fanconi’s anaemia. Since he is the only child and bone marrow from his parents doesn’t match his HLA, he has no option but to go on regular blood transfusions to keep up his platelet count.
His mother Prathibha is now eight months pregnant and antenatal tests show that the foetus is free of the dreaded diseases. Newer indications for stem cell therapy are disease conditions like breast cancer, renal cell cancer, heart disease, spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Research and clinical trials worldwide prove the success of cord blood stem cells in over 75 such disease conditions.
Dr Sharat Damodar, consultant haematologist, Narayana Hrudayalaya, said: “All these true stories speak volumes about the therapeutic potential of bone-marrow derived stem cells from a matched donor. In the absence of such a donor, cord blood derived stem cells can help cure dreaded hematological diseases like Thalassemia major, Aplastic anemia, Fanconi’s anaemia and over 14 such other conditions.”