Stem Cell Banking: Pros and Cons

5 min read

Every parent starts planning for their child’s future even before they are born – be it financial or medical. Stem cell banking is one such innovation that has paved way to treat numerous diseases by making the body fight from within rather than depend on series of medications and treatments.However, not everyone has a positive notion towards this technology. While some feel this can be life saving, others feel it is a waste of time, money and resources. So, is it good or bad? Let’s look deeper into it!

stem cell banking

What is Stem Cell Banking?

During a pregnancy, the mother’s system is connected to the baby’s via the umbilical cord. It is a common practice to cut the umbilical cord once the baby is born. All life nurturing cells and nutrients are transferred to the baby through this cord which is attached to the placenta. When the cord is cut, the blood trapped in the passage is filled with essential immature cells called the stem cells. These cells have the potential to assume the form of other cells in the body.

The process of collecting this umbilical cord blood, extracting the stem cells and preserving them for future use is called stem cell banking. There are three options to do this – private banking, community banking and public banking.

Importance of Stem Cell Banking

How important is stem cell banking? In the recent times, this procedure has gained a lot of recognition and stem cell banking importance has increased. The number of success stories due to stem cell therapy has convinced many parents and parents-to-be, to preserve their child’s stem cells.

One of the biggest importance is the ability to help others. Stem cells from one sample can match the needs of another person. Since these are immature cells, they can take up the form of other cells even in another person’s body, if it is a match. Stem cell therapy is gaining a lot of importance and momentum in the recent times and ground breaking findings are helping many people fight a variety of diseases.

Top 5 Benefits of Stem Cell Banking

When umbilical cord preservation is done right, stem cell banking uses can be many. Some of the noteworthy stem cell preservation benefits are:

  1. Stem cells can be collected without any fuss from the cord blood. It does not hurt or harm the mother or the baby.
  2. Stem cells can treat a number of diseases from within the body itself.
  3. Stem cells collected from one baby can be used for another baby or even an adult.
  4. A 100% match is readily available when needed, thus saving you a lot of precious time and money when there is a need for stem cell therapy.
  5. These stem cells can be used to even treat spinal injuries, recreate cardiac tissues so that they resemble the body’s own tissue without the risk of a mismatch.

Stem Cell Banking Pros and Cons

As a parent you should be aware of both stem cell banking pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros

Some of the advantages of cord blood banking are:

  1. More stem cells can be extracted from the cord blood than from a bone marrow.
  2. Collecting these stem cells is easier and non invasive when compared to collecting stem cells from bone marrow.
  3. The chances of the stem cells from umbilical cord being rejected is much lesser than rejection of adult stem cells collected from bone marrow.
  4. Stem cells from cord blood can support immune system during cancer treatments unlike cells from bone marrow.
  5. There is no risk involved in collecting these stem cells. The cord is clamped at two ends and then the blood is collected. It does not pose any threat to both mother or baby.
  6. These are collected and stored under clinical conditions, making them easily available when needed. You need not undergo any procedure to extract them when there is a need.
  7. Public stem cell banking is free and has a very high chance of finding a suitable match for anyone in the family.
  8. This can save the lives of many others without any effort from the donor’s side.
  9. It can be used to treat siblings, parents and even grandparents of the donor.
  10. The donor experiences absolutely no pain during this type of collection. This is not the case with extractions from the bone marrow.

Cons

Like every other scientific advancement this technology has its own set of negatives too. Some of the stem cell preservation disadvantages are:

  1. If the collection and storage is not done in time the stem cells can be wasted.
  2. Stem cells once extracted need to be preserved in the right conditions, failing which it can become useless.
  3.  The concentration of stem cells in cord blood can be low for a few cases, resulting in the need for multiple donors when an adult requires these stem cells.
  4.  Collecting and preserving these stem cells can be an expensive affair if done privately.
  5.  Delayed clamping is not possible if the mother opts for stem cell banking.

Future of Cord Blood

stem cell

A lot of research is being done in umbilical cord storage and cord blood benefits are on the rise. The advancement of technology has helped treat a number of otherwise hopeless diseases, with the help of these cells that were discarded as a waste, few years ago. With community banking and more people mentally opening up to helping others, this technology has a lot to offer us humans. A lot of people are willing to donate for research, which is helping doctors and scientists find new possibilities and uses of keeping cord blood.

Some of the diseases stem cell banking is expected to treat in the form of regenerative medicine are:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Spinal injury where tissues are beyond repair
  • Heart problems by recreating heart tissues

Latest technological development is enabling labs to multiply one’s own stem cells to meet the requirement (an adult’s requirement is much more than what is collected at birth). Though this is very expensive, it shows one’s own stem cells can be used in the future treatments if needed, without having to depend on external sources.

FAQs

1. Is Stem Cell Banking Worth it?

Yes, stem cell banking benefits is not limited to just the donor. It can used to treat diseases in many other children and adults too. If you are not keen on paying for it, you can always opt for the public umbilical cord banking rather than letting it go waste.

2. What is the Success Rate of Stem Cell Banking?

Stem cells collected at birth can be a 100% match for the donor (the baby), almost 90% match for their first sibling; close to 50% for parents and 25% for grandparents.

3. How Much Stem Cell Banking Cost?

The cost varies from company to company and also the length of the term you want to preserve the stem cells for. The public stem cell banking is run by the government and is free of cost. For private companies, please refer their website for various package options.

4. What Disease can Benefit from Stem Cell Banking?

Stem cell therapy has been helpful in dealing with over 80 diseases. These include cancer, anemia and some life altering immunity disorders.

Storage of umbilical cord and stem cell banking has saved a number of lives. With on-going research and new findings the possibilities of these cells helping fight more diseases is high. Even if a parent does not believe in stem cell therapy, they can donate the stem cells to the public banking or for research purposes.

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