Deciding Whether to Store Cord Blood? What You Need to Know

All over the world, millions of people buy insurance policies on their health, life, property and even to cover their children’s education. When it comes to ensuring the medical health and wellbeing of your children, stem cell banking is one form of ‘biological insurance’ that can prevent future health risks to your offspring. Let us look at the many nuances of this cutting-edge technology and how it is revolutionizing medical science.

How Cord Blood Helps in Protection Against Disease…

Parents are curious about the advantages of umbilical cord blood, stem cell transplants and benefits. The first thing to keep in mind is that the window of opportunity that is offered by umbilical cord blood (UCB). Ten minutes after childbirth is when UCB must be collected and sent to a laboratory where the stem cells are further analysed to find out the Human Leukocyte Antigen type, tested for HIV and Hepatitis (B&C) and a battery of other such scrutiny is carried out before it is processed and cyropreserved.

Retrieval of the UCB must be done by experienced and trained medical staff so that an adequate amount of blood is collected without bacterial contamination. Caesarean and premature births make it difficult to collect UCB. In an interview published in The Hindu, Dr Saranya Narayan, Medical Director & Co-founder of Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre in Chennai states UCB can be stored for up to 24 years but the sample has to be processed within 36 hours of retrieval.

The first successful cord blood stem cell transplant was performed between two siblings to treat Fanconi’s Anemia. Since then, there has been an explosion of interest in UCB preservation as it is the only alternative source of stem cells other than bone marrow. Cord blood banking is like taking out an insurance policy to protect your children and is becoming increasingly popular. An article in The Hindustan Times, recently reported the opening of the first cord blood bank run by the Indian Government in Kolkata.

Range of Benefits

Stem cells collected are used to treat a range of diseases, especially ones where the patient has to receive blood transplants that contain hematopoietic stem cells. These cells are responsible for the creation of red and white blood cells and platelets. Stem cell banking benefits the treatment of cancers, genetic, blood and immune system diseases such as:

  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes
  • Leukaemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Anaemia
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Thalassemia
  • Aplasia
  • Bone marrow cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Congenital cardiovascular defects

Stem cells are also being tested in treatment of autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss and spinal cord injuries.