During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the life line between the mother and the child. The term ‘cord blood’ implies to blood that remains in the umbilical cord after the baby is born.
What is cord blood banking?
It is a way to store umbilical cord blood, in case it is needed in the future for stem cell therapy. Discarding the baby’s cord was once considered the accepted procedure. However, scientists have now discovered that this ‘medical waste’ contains precious lifesaving stem cells that aid in the treatment of numerous diseases. Over 5000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide since its initial clinical use in 1988. Cord blood banking in India was a relatively unknown concept a decade ago, but it is rapidly becoming popular now.
Why cord blood banking?
Storing umbilical cord blood stem cells when they are young is beneficial to patients for use due to greater engraftment, self-renewal and differentiation capacity of these cells. Also, these stem cells are more immunologically naïve and patients who receive them are less likely to reject them. They have lesser probability of developing graft versus host disease as compared to the hematopoietic stem cells obtained from the bone marrow. As such, cord blood stem cells can be successfully used even when there is no perfect match between the donor and the recipient. Bone marrow transplant not only requires a perfect match, but finding a suitable donor is difficult and time consuming. Collection of cord blood is also a simple, safe, quick and painless procedure compared to other stem cell sources like bone marrow.
It is pertinent for the family whose baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells are stored to know that autologous cord blood stem cells of the baby may never be utilised for the baby in case of leukaemia or other blood related disorders, which could occur during childhood. In such cases, it has medically been shown that HLA-matched allogenic stem cells from the donor are considered to be the best therapeutic option. This is why cord blood banking is gaining popularity worldwide.
A baby, whose umbilical cord has been stored with Unistem, would have the advantage to obtain HLA-matched cord blood stem cells. This could be achieved either from Unistem’s Public cord blood bank, free of cost, should the HLA-matched umbilical cord blood stem cells be available. In the absence of availability, Unistem would facilitate through its membership with the International Bone Marrow and Umbilical Cord Blood Donor Registry with its headquarters located in the Netherlands and affiliated with public banks globally, to get the right HLA-matched stem cells for the child. Unistem is the first and only company associated with stem cell research and therapy, and cord blood banking in India from the umbilical cord.
The stored umbilical cord blood stem cells of the child may, however, be utilised for cases such as leukaemia by the existing sibling or the immediate members of the family, subsequent to HLA-matching and genetic screening of the stored umbilical cord unit. It is important to understand that umbilical cord blood derived stem cells, which have been stored by the family, could also be utilised for regenerative medical conditions pertaining to neurological disorders besides others. This is due to the presence of mesenchymal stem cells in the umbilical cord blood. This is the gist of what is cord blood banking and compared to its benefits, the cost of cord blood banking with Unistem is well within reach.