Written by Editorial Team
Some of the most gorgeous mommies in Bollywood have urged you – through print and TV ads – to gift your baby “lifetime protection” by preserving the umbilical cord in a stem cell bank they endorse. If these ads for stem cell banking haven’t reached you, chances are you would have gotten at least one call from a stem cell bank during your pregnancy, trying to convince you to bank your umbilical cord with them.
Considering that stem cells are used throughout the world for treating a number of diseases (and many more are in the research phase currently), it should be easy for you to decide to bank the cells. However, the relative newness of this concept in India and the cost involved for the same make many parents pause. Before you make the decision, you need to first understand what stem cell banking is and how it can help your child and your family.
In This Article
A step back. Let us first understand what stem cells are. Stem cells are the building blocks of life, having two distinct characteristics that give them life-saving superpowers:
Put together, this means that a stem cell can act as a repair system. It can divide itself and convert into any specialized cell (e.g. liver cell, brain cell, red blood cell) that requires replenishment. Therefore, the use of stem cells transplant to treat illnesses, including blood cancer and immune system disorders, continues to revolutionize the medicinal field.
It is interesting to note that the umbilical cord is not the only source of stem cells. Stem cells are seen all over our body, and are specifically concentrated in the bone marrow. However, the extraction of stem cells from bone marrow is a painful, cumbersome, and costly process. And the stem cells found in the rest of the body are not rich enough to be used in medical therapies. This is where the umbilical cord steps in:
Stem cell banking, hence, involves the collection of blood left in the umbilical cord of your child during childbirth and preserving it for future medical use.
Yes. Stem cells are extracted from the umbilical “cord” blood – and hence are called cord cells too.
It is collected right after the birth of your child. The collection process is non-invasive and painless – chances are you would not even realize it happening in the excitement of seeing and holding your baby for the first time. After the delivery (whether it is normal or C-section), your doctor would clamp and cut the umbilical cord as done normally. Then they will extract blood from the umbilical cord that is attached to the placenta. This blood is stored in a collection bag and sent to the stem cell bank where you are registered, where it is processed and frozen for long-term storage.
If the stem cell bank you have chosen does not have a storage facility in the area of your hospital, then they will typically send a representative to the hospital on the day of your delivery for collecting the blood from the hospital and preserving it in frozen, high-quality condition till it is shipped to the storage facility. This is something you need not worry about.
There are many reputed companies providing stem cell banking in India. Some of the popular ones are:
You should choose a stem cell bank that is highly reputed and touts superior technological advancements. Most of them will arrange a “site visit”. You can visit the storage bank and see for yourself the quality measures followed. You should also look for facilities that can withstand natural calamities. Pick a company that has storage banks in areas less prone to earthquakes, floods, and cyclones. Some of these companies offer “dual site” storage – meaning the stem cells are split and stored in two different cities, to avoid any risk involved in one site being destroyed.
If you are not residing in India currently, you should know that in many of the developed countries you have an option to store your child’s stem cells in a government-funded stem cell bank. The advantage of this facility is that the bank will store the cells indefinitely free of cost. The disadvantage, although minor, is that the cells are not stored exclusively for your child or your family – it is available for any patient who matches the tissue type of your child’s stem cells.
The cost varies depending on the company and the plan you have chosen. Most companies offer single–site storage for an annual payment ranging from 1500 to 3500. If you are opting to use a one-time payment for 25 or 50 years, there are many discounted options for the same.
Some companies offer to store the umbilical cord tissue – in addition to the blood – for an extra cost. The cord tissue contains stem cells that are different from the ones in cord blood and can be used for diseases concerning cartilage, muscle, and nerve cells.
Some companies also offer to store the placenta/ blood and tissue, again for an extra cost. Placenta tissue is a rich source of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and CD34+ stem cells. These can be used in medical treatments for both baby and mother.
Cord blood cells when banked have unique advantages. They are more helpful as compared to adult blood cells from sources like bone marrow. When saved, there is a lesser risk of complications if your child needs to go for a transplant. Also, it can help in treating conditions for which medical treatments are still lacking.
By deciding to bank your child’s healthy stem cells, you are basically facilitating treatment for your child if he/she succumbs to any of the diseases (see below) that require stem-cell transplant treatment. You can also offer to donate your baby’s cord to help other patients seeking treatment for serious diseases. Though the trend now is 90% to 10% for family stem cell banking and public stem cell banking. Some of the diseases that can be treated by stem cells are:
There are many more. In addition, there are a number of clinical studies underway currently that explores the use of stem cells in many conditions. For instance, autism, cerebral palsy, lupus, arthritis, and spinal cord injury. Stem cells are the building blocks of blood and the immune system, having the ability to transform into cells that can repair tissues and organs and even the blood, thus treating many rare but dangerous diseases.
While no one can discredit stem cells’ importance in medicine, it has also become a very lucrative “business”. One important fact that no stem cell banking company would tell you is that the probability that a child will ever use his or her own stored cord blood are small. The main reasons for this are:
That said, the chances that your child’s stem cells can come in handy for the medical treatment of his/her siblings or other blood relatives are higher.
There is absolutely no question that stem cells have the capacity to save lives. Considering it is collected from something that is otherwise discarded after birth. Like the placenta and umbilical cord. Also, it involves no physical damage to the mother and child.
So your final choice comes down to affordability:
Read Also: Top 10 Stem Cell Banks in India
Stem cells treat several disorders. Hereditary, immunological, metabolic, and blood cancers. FDA-approved cord blood stem cells treat approximately 80 diseases. Stem cells heal serious wounds and chronic diseases. They are being researched to repair cardiac muscle after a heart attack or sickness. Stem cells can replace damaged blood cells and boost immune systems.
Yes. Siblings, parents, and grandparents can use cord blood. The child’s blood type doesn’t need to match the grandparent’s to use cord blood. Instead, cord blood is safe if the recipient is an HLA match to the infant.
With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.
Mar 23, 2016
Lifecell is misguiding the clientage through their brand value... If you go with contract copy you will definitely drop the plan to go with LC
Sep 03, 2015
Absolutely true. You explained it so easily and for a parent-to-be like me, it clears a lot of doubts. Thank you. We had a lot of issues in finalizing the better bank and finally registed with LifeCell. They seem to have standard and better facilities compared to others who merely promised us that it may come in future; like the 2 storage site you mentioned is available with Lifecell but not with Cryobank. So my vote goes for Lifecell stem cell bank.
Jul 22, 2015
It is important for every parent to understand the concept of cord blood banking/ stem cell banking. There isn't much awareness about stem cell banking in India, so thanks for this article. It provides wide info about the benefits and also the cons of stem cell banking. We are planning to opt LifeCell for our first child. So far, their service is very good. Hope everything goes well while collecting the stem cells. Every parent must think about stem cell banking.
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