All you want to know about stem cell banking

May 15, 2010

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Among the many decisions would-be-parents have to take, whether or not they should preserve their child’s cord blood cells is one such major decision they have to take. Here is some info which will let you decide whether this breakthrough in regenerative medicine works for you.

What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cells are nothing but master cells that regenerate and turn into cells that form tissues, organs and systems. These cells are undifferentiated or blank cells that do not have a specific function. Each stem cell has the potential to become another cell with a more specialised function. Also serving as a kind of repair system for the body, stem cells can divide repeatedly and then differentiate and replenish cells damaged by the various life-threatening diseases.

How effective is it?
The cord blood stem cells can be used to cure about 70 odd illnesses. Banking stem cells present in your child’s umbilical cord is particularly beneficial to treat blood-related genetic diseases. Now the benefits of this therapy are being assessed on lifestyle disorders like arthritis, heart ailments and diabetes. In fact, banking cord blood cells can also help treat siblings and other family members provided they are compatible with the individual seeking treatment.

Sagar Gopal, a resident of Chembur opted for cord stem cell banking for his little one on February 7 this year. “I heard about cord stem cell banking from a friend of mine. After doing the necessary research I realised that cord stem cell banking will be beneficial because a lot of research is on its uses. I think by taking this small step I have secured my child’s life against several life threatening diseases,” says Gopal.

Stem cells can be derived from various sources such as the bone marrow, embryos obtained by in vitro fertilization, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood and menstrual blood.

Bone Marrow – The bone marrow is an extremely rich and the earliest known source of somatic stem cells. Drawn from the spongy tissue found in the centre of bones, the main function of these stem cells is to make blood cells that circulate in our bodies and fight infection.

Umbilical Cord – The other rich source of stem cells is the blood left over in the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn child. Till recently, this blood was often discarded as medical waste. However, now that umbilical cord blood is known to be a rich source of stem cells, more people are choosing to bank these cells for its potential future use.

Menstrual blood – Menstrual blood too is a rich source of stem blood cells. The advantage of this is that tissue collection can be done easily at home with the help of a menstrual cup. Also the person does not need anaesthesia and the process involved is inexpensive too. However, there is a risk of contamination so the collected sample has to be sterilised within 48 hours and stored at a temperature of -200 degrees.

Advantages of deriving stem cells from umbilical cord as compared to other sources
Removing stem cells from the umbilical cord is simpler. Usually the umbilical cord that connects the foetus with the mother is cut at the time of delivery and discarded. However, in this technique, the blood remaining in the umbilical cord that is full of stem cells is separated and stored in stem cell banks. These stem cells are similar to those found in the bone marrow and have already been used to treat leukaemia (blood cancer).

Mayur Abhaya, executive director of Life Cell, a stem cell bank in India, states, “The advantage of banking stem cells through the umbilical cord is that cord blood’s chances of matching are 20 times higher. Using cord blood cells mean that it has a lower rejection rate by the body.”

How is it stored?
As of now there are three private stem cell banks in India. These include the one run by Reliance in Mumbai, CryoCell stem bank run in New Delhi and Life Cell run in collaboration with Cryo-Cell International, USA in Chennai.

You can now preserve your newborn’s cord blood at any bank for a payment of Rs70,000 for 20 years.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend private cord blood storage unless a family member has a medical condition that might be helped by stem cell transplant. The conditions include leukaemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia. Instead, AAP urges parents to donate the cord blood cells to a bank for general use by public.

Across the world, stem cell transplants have been used since the 1960s to treat a variety of diseases such as: Acute Leukaemia, Histiocytic Disorders, Inherited Immune System Disorders, Combined Immunodeficiency Inherited Metabolic Disorders, Inherited Platelet Abnormalities, Refractory Anaemia (RA), Plasma Cell Disorders, Research on for Alzheimer’s Disease, Cardiac Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Spinal Cord, Stroke

Genetic and bio-technology conference held

December 24, 2009

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A large population of the UAE suffers from genetic disorders, including common ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure and thalassemia, which affect one in 12 people in the country

Dubai: The first genetic and bio-technology conference opened here on Monday with experts warning that the world is being challenged today by serious diseases and viruses that threaten our communities.

The event is organised by the UAE Genetic Diseases Association, in partnership with Yamaguchi University, Japan, Zayed University and DuBiotech.

“This event is all about inspiring students to think creatively about science and society, and to see themselves as part of a global community of practitioners working in similar fields,” said Dr. Michael Allen, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Zayed University.

He said genetics and biotechnology is still a burgeoning field in the UAE.

A large population of the UAE suffers from genetic disorders, including common ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure and thalassemia, which affect one in 12 people in the country.

Dr Sulaiman Al Jassim, Vice-President of Zayed University, said the conference will help raise awareness on prevention and treatment methods of these diseases.

Graduate and post graduate students from the Zayed University, Higher College of Technology and Manipal University are taking part in the day-long conference.

Common genetic disorders in UAE

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Birth Defects
  • Cancer, such as breast cancer
  • Leukaemia (1 in 12 in UAE has this)
  • Thalassemia
  • Alpha Thalassemia
  • Sickle-cell anaemia
  • G6PD (not enough of enzyme glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase)

CordLife targets India as potential stem cell market

November 8, 2009

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Kolkata: CordLife, one of the leading stem cell banking groups in the Asia Pacific region, is targeting expansion of its network in India and China, considering the huge birth rate in these two Asian nations, a top official said on Wednesday.

“We’re looking at India and China as two big markets in terms of our stem cell business in the Asia Pacific region – keeping in mind the huge birth rate in these two countries,” CordLife group chief executive Steven Fang told media persons Wednesday on the sidelines of a press conference here.

“We’re presently in talks with a large number of big government and private hospitals across India to tie up with them for stem cell therapy treatment.”

He said the company was growing at a rate of 70 percent in terms of its client base, and also registered 30 percent growth in its net profit last year.

“Once this stem cell therapy gets commercialised in this country, we’re sure there would be more growth in this particular healthcare sector,” Fang said.

CordLife operates Asia’s largest network of private cord blood banks with full processing and specialised storage facilities in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and India. It has a strong marketing presence throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The company set up its first storage facility in Kolkata’s adjoining diamond harbour area early this year. The unit has a present capacity of storing about 40,000 cord blood units with a potential to store as many as 150,000 cord blood units.

“The total size of India’s stem cell preservation market is about 15,000 units per annum and it’s growing at a rapid pace. The growth rate has been approximately 42-50 percent per year,” CordLife managing director Meghnath Roy Chowdhury said.

Cord blood has become a very common source of stem cells for transplantations. Permanent cures are possible for some diseases using stem cell therapies.

According to experts, this stem cell therapy can be used for treating various diseases like heart ailments, diabetes, skin trauma, certain cancers like leukaemia and breast cancer, and blood disorders like thalassemia major.

Cord blood, which is also called “placental blood”, is the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth and after the cord is cut. Cord blood is routinely discarded with the placenta and umbilical cord.

However, the cord blood, with its rich sources of blood stem cells, can be used to treat over 80 diseases.

Cyrobanks aims to collect 20,000 samples nationally in a year

August 17, 2009

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Kochi , July 30 Cryobanks International India, a umbilical cord blood stem cell banking company, has set itself a target of collecting 20,000 samples nationally within a year, the company CEO C V Nerikar said today.
” Already 10,000 samples have been collected so far and another 10,000 would be collected in a year&aposs time,”he told reporters here.

The umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells and the bank would help store them from any willing family for a certain fee, he said, adding that the cells would be vital in saving the lives of those suffering from leukaemia, thalassemia, blood cancer and those who need a bone marrow transplant.

The company started operations in Kerala in 2008,opening a branch at Thiruvananthapuram. It now also operates from Kochi , Thrissur and Kottayam. A unit in Kozhikode is also likely to come up.

At present there are 80 centres in India, from which 10,000 samples have been collected in the last two years, he said, adding that the company now has a presence in Tier II and Tier III cities and hopes to have centres in rural areas in a couple of years.

Pims sets up Oncology unit at Children Hospital

June 7, 2009


Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has established the first Paediatric Oncology Unit in Children Hospital PIMS, much-needed treatment facility in public sector hospitals of twin cities. Federal Minister of Health Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani was to inaugurate the Paediatric Oncology unit but he did not turn up and the Executive Director PIMS had to perform the opening ceremony.

Col Antoni Pennai Military Attach Italian Embassy, Nariko Prati wife of Italian Ambassador, ED PIMS Dr Altaf Hussain, Dr Lawrence Faulkner of cure2Children Foundation, Italy, Dr Nuzhat Yasmeen Assistant Professor Paediatric Oncology and Dr Sadaf Khalid Pakistan Branch Co-ordinator of Cure2Children Foundation were also present on the occasion.

The 8-beded unit is also has an isolation facility and a minor procedure room for chemotherapy and Bone Marrow aspiration therapeutic biopsies. While speaking at the inauguration of the POU and concluding session of the symposium on Bone Marrow in Thalassemia Children the ED PIMS Dr Altaf Hussain termed the initiative as another major achievement after start of the first Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

He said PC-I of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in PIMS is being prepared and soon it would be submitted on priority basis so that the facility may be extended to the large population.

With reference to the concluding session of the symposium on Bone Marrow in Thalassemia Children, he said, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit is a beautiful example of Public Private Partnership. Pims and Cure2Children Foundation are providing free services of Bone marrow transplantation to poor patients who can not afford the expensive treatment.

While giving a brief background of the POU, Dr Nuzhat Yameen Assistant Professor Paediatric Oncology Unit said Children Hospital is providing Oncological services since 1985, however a separate oncology unit was a long desire.

The tumour registry project run by this unit started in November 2005 and till date 450 children were diagnosed with different cancer types and monthly 350 patients visit OPD visits and 220-day care Chemotherapy, she continued.

Children with common and rare cancer are treated in this unit and there is an excellent teamwork between Paediatric oncology and Paediatric surgeons. This is the only public sector cancer unit, which has a huge catchments area from Kabul to Lahore, she added.

She appreciated the efforts and commitment of Italian NGO Cure2Children Foundation for running the Bone Marrow transplant facility in children hospital. She opined that the two-bedded unit is insufficient to meet the large number of children suffering from the life threatening ailments like Thalassemia, Aplastic anaemia and leukaemia, which can only be treated by Bone Marrow Transplant.

She was of the view that this facility should be further expanded in future so more and more children can take befit of this facility. She requested the authorities concerned to approve PC-1 of the 16-bedded Bone Marrow Transplant unit and 25 bedded Paediatric Oncology Unit.

Virgin Launches Stem-Cell Bank In Qatar

March 19, 2009

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Doha , Qatar – March 8, 2009:  The benefits of stem cell therapies will soon be realised for the people of Qatar as Virgin Health Bank establishes a partnership with Qatar Science & Technology Park.

Qatar parents will be able to have their new born babies’ stem cells collected, processed and cryogenically stored. The stem cells are obtained from the blood remaining in the umbilical cord after birth and are already being used in treatments for 85 different medical conditions. Additionally stem cells are a major focus of medical research around the world and this is expected to add to the number of therapies available.

The announcement was welcomed by Qatar’s health authorities and religious leaders.

“Stem cells have already proven useful for fighting leukaemia, and are one of the most promising areas for future medical breakthroughs” said HE Dr. Ghalia Al Thani, Minister of Health. “The Ministry welcomes the Virgin blood bank because it increases the range of medical options available to Qatar’s population.”
Virgin Health Bank and Qatar’s medical authorities are exploring the use of the umbilical cord-blood stem cell bank as part of a national public-health program. Such a program would create the world’s first comprehensive source of stem cells for the indigenous Middle Eastern population and would for example, make it easier for clinicians to source a matched tissue typed stem cell unit when a transplant is needed.

Umbilical cord-blood stem cell transplants are increasingly being used in preference to bone marrow for conditions such as leukaemia and thalassemia. Evidence shows that umbilical cord blood stem-cell transplants result in fewer complications, reduced occurrences of graft-versus-host syndrome, and importantly, they are more readily available.

Because Virgin Health Bank’s process collects stem cells from ordinary umbilical cords, ethical considerations related to other sources of stem cells are avoided. Its model has been deemed compliant with Shariah law by a Qatar-based Islamic scholar.

Virgin Health Bank with the support of local institutes expects to start storing cord blood stem cell samples from Qatar within the next few months. The company, which was launched in the UK in 2007, will relocate its international headquarters to Qatar Science & Technology Park where it will build a state of the art processing and cryogenic storage facility.

Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Managing Director of Hamad Medical Corporation, said “Our goal is to increase the range and quality of public-health services available in Qatar. Virgin Health Bank marks a large step in this direction and I welcome its arrival.”

David Macauley, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Health Bank, said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to use our skills and technology to help realise the current and future benefits of stem cell therapies for the people of Qatar and to be working in partnership with QSTP, the Qatar Foundation and Qatar’s medical authorities to accomplish this”

Dr. Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman of Qatar Science & Technology Park, said “We are delighted that Virgin Health Bank is moving its global headquarters to Qatar. This is a significant decision, and a testament to Qatar’s ability to accelerate the world’s best medical science. The legacy of our partnership with Virgin will serve the health of Qatar’s citizens for years to come.”

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