All you want to know about stem cell banking

May 15, 2010

Courtesy by: Mumbaimirror.com
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.

Sources
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.

BOX
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


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