cord blood banking-1If you could get a magic wand which would protect your child from 80-odd diseases including thalassemia, leukaemia, sickle cell disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and maybe even diabetes and heart disease in the future, would you opt for it? This isn’t a fairy tale we’re talking about. Cord blood banking isn’t just a celeb fad anymore. As people are becoming more aware about its benefits, the cost of Rs 50000 – Rs 80000 isn’t deterring people anymore.

Why should I preserve my baby’s cord blood?

In the 1970s researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood contains hemopoetic (blood forming) stem cells. Blood forming stem cells are those cells that are capable of developing into three types of mature blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Cord blood stem cells are also known for their potential to give rise to other types of cells in the body. Since they are obtained from the baby’s own blood and cells, the chances of rejection during medical treatment are very low. Cord blood banking is also a one-time opportunity to help your own family, this is because transplant patients have a better chance of recovery if they receive their own stem cells or those of close family instead of someone unrelated. There are now emerging therapies in which your child could use his/her own cord blood stem cells to help the body repair itself. In the future, children whose parents saved their cord blood will have better access to futuristic treatments.

Will it hurt my child?

Harvesting cord blood is a safe and painless procedure. That being said, it requires a little planning on your part since it is not routinely done in hospitals or clinics. Collection of cord blood takes place shortly after birth. It can be performed in both normal as well as cesarean (C-section) deliveries. Your baby’s cord blood will be collected by your obstetrician, nurse, or a technician. The physician will first cut the umbilical cord and clamp it on one side, after which he/she will insert a small needle into the umbilical vein and use a syringe to draw blood. Blood also can be collected by hanging a bag below the mother and letting gravity draw the blood down through a tube and into the bag. The blood collection can be done either before or after the mother delivers the placenta.

How is the cord blood stored?

After collection, the cord blood is sent to the cord-blood bank you have chosen. Once in the bank, the sample is assigned an identification number. This number is unique to you and your baby. The stem cells are then separated from the blood and stored in liquid nitrogen (also called cryogenic storage).

What can cord blood stem cells be used for?

Cord blood contains Mesenchymal stem cells(MSC). These cells can differentiate to build bone, cartilage and connective tissue, and are also effective in regulating the body’s inflammatory response to damaged or injured cells. Harvesting the umbilical cord blood can yield between 21 and 500 million MSC. An important part of the transplant programme is Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching. A 100 per cent HLA match will ensure that the transplant is a success. Currently researchers are exploring the use of cord blood stem cells to treat conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Central nervous system disorders like cerebral palsy, down’s syndrome, traumatic spinal injuries, blood cancer (leukaemia), thalassemia (inherited) and bone marrow failure diseases.

Why is cord blood a preferred source for stem cell therapy over bone marrow transplants?

In order to be used as a treatment option for patients, cord blood recipient has to match the donor sample only partially (67 per cent as compared to 100 per cent match in case of bone marrow transplants).

What stem cell banking options do I have in India?

Cord blood banking was an alien concept in India until a few years back. The concept of retaining the child’s umbilical cord is a custom in a number of Indian cultures, but preserving the placental as well as cord blood for future use has just picked up in popularity. According to a leading news paper the facility of cord blood banking has been in India for the past 25 years, but with only about 3 public and 7 private cord blood banks in the country there is a huge shortage of resources to meet the rising demands for this facility.

There are two types of banking facilities for storing the cord blood cells of your baby; public donor banks and the private banks. In public donor banks, you can donate your baby’s cord blood to a central facility for use by anybody who needs it. A Private cord blood banking centre will allow you to use your baby’s cord blood either by your child, by his/her siblings or a family member. Some Private Indian cord blood banks are Lifecell International, Cryobanks India, Cordlife India. Jeevan Cord Blood Bank is a public cord blood bank.