Cord Blood or Stem Cell Banking

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What is Cord Blood Banking or Stem Cell Banking?

Blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord post-delivery is termed as cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood). As a woman approaches the full term of her pregnancy, there is a maternal to fetal transfer of cells – this occurs to enhance both the baby and mother’s immune system in preparation for the delivery. Thus, cord blood is a rich source of stem cells and other cells of the immune system at the time of delivery. These hematopoietic stem cells are immature cells that can transform into all types of blood cells such as White Blood Cells (WBCs), Red Blood Cells (RBCs), and platelets and may also help treat various diseases.

Cord blood banking is the method of collecting the cord blood and removing and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other immune system cells for possible future medical usage. Collecting cord blood is harmless to both the mother and the baby. During pregnancy, parents can decide if they want their baby’s cord blood to be collected and stored once the baby is born and enroll in cord blood managing private bank of their choice.

Cord blood banking is frequently an umbrella term used for the various cells that are stored. Stored cord blood comprises little of what people think of as ‘blood’, as the RBCs can be harmful to a cord blood treatment. In Europe and other parts of the globe, cord blood banking is also known as stem cell banking. As storing of cord blood is designed to gather and collect the blood-forming stem cells and not the actual blood cells, the term stem cell banking may be more relevant.

Cord Blood in Disease Treatment

Cord blood contains immune system cells, and stem cells in abundance, and the medical usage of these cells has been increasing at a fast pace. Since these cells enable the body to re-generate systems and tissues, cord blood is often termed as regenerative medicine.

Currently, cord blood is permitted by the Food and Drugs Association (FDA) for the treatment of close to 80 diseases, and cord blood treatments have been completed more than 35,000 times all over the world to cure cancers (including leukemia and lymphoma), inherited metabolic disorders, anemias, and some orthopedic repairs and solid tumors. Researchers are also trying to explore how cord blood has the capability to cross the brain-blood barrier and decrease inflammation, which may be helpful in curing diseases and conditions that had no cure earlier. With the sustained advancement of cord blood and related immune and stem cell research, the probability of leveraging the stored cord blood for the cure of diseases will only grow.

Benefits for the Entire Family

As the body’s immune system is designed in such a manner that it identifies and gets rid of what it considers to be outside contaminants, stem cells and other cells of the immune system cannot be transfused into anyone just like that. For stem cell transfusions of any kind, a body’s immune system can erroneously start attacking the patient’s own body. This is termed as Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GvHD), which is problematic post the transplant. GvHD can be minimal and isolated, but it can also be chronic, acute, and even deadly.

To prevent the GvHD disease, the stem cells being transfused should match the cells of the patient entirely or to some extent (depending on which disease is being treated). Cord blood extracted from a baby’s umbilical cord is always an ideal match for the baby. Also, immediate family members are more likely to be a match for the stored cord blood. Siblings stand a 50 percent chance of being a partial match and have at least a 25 percent chance of being a perfect match. Each parent has a 100% chance of being a partial match. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other extended family members also have the possibility of being a match and could use the cord blood that is stored.

Where is it Stored?

There are three options where cord blood can be stored:

  • Public cord banks do not charge any fees for the storage. Donations made are available for anyone who may need it. The donated cord blood could also be used for research by the bank.
  • Private (commercial) cord banks exclusively store the donated blood for use by the donor and his/her family members. Such banks charge a processing fee and an annual fee for storage. Once parents decide that they want to get their baby’s cord blood stored, they have to enroll in the private bank of their choice before the delivery.
  • Direct-donation banks are a combination of private and public banks. Such banks store cord blood for public use and also agree to take donations reserved for families. These banks do not charge any fees.
Pros and Cons of Cord Blood Banking
  • Umbilical cord blood can save lives. Cord blood contains stem cells in abundance that can transform into different types of blood cells. These blood cells can be used to cure diseases that harm the immune and blood system.
  • Therapies with cord blood are more successful now.
  • Cord blood holds a promising future for medical procedures. Scientists are also studying methods to treat more diseases using cord blood.
  • You and your family will always have access to the cord blood you store in a private bank.
  • Cord blood banking is quite expensive if you want to store it in a private bank; however, it is entirely free to donate blood to a public cord blood bank.
  • Your child may never need it. Although cord blood can be used to treat different diseases, there is only a 1 in 217 chance of your child or family member needing it.Cord blood cannot be used to treat everything.
  • Most stored cord blood is discarded.

Reliable Companies for Cord Blood Banking in India
  • LifeCell (LifeCell International Private Ltd): Offers unlimited stem cell unit retrievals for the entire family at the cost of one enrollment and a disaster-proof dual-site facility.
  • Cordlife (Cordlife Sciences India Pvt. Ltd): One of the largest umbilical cord stem cell banking companies in India.
  • CryoSave (Cryo Save India Private Limited): Known as a technology leader in Indian stem cell banking industry.
  • Cryoviva (Cryobanks International India PVT. Ltd): Specializes in offering high- quality umbilical cord blood stem cell processing and storage.
  • NovaCord (Fortis- TotipotentRX): A collaborative enterprise between Cesca Therapeutics/ TotipotentRX and Fortis Healthcare that specializes in both stem cell banking and treating patients using advanced cellular therapies.
  • Babycell (Regenerative Medical Services Pvt.Ltd): Regarded as one of the best stem cell banking company with specialization in umbilical cord blood banking.
  • Reliance (Reliance Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd):  Is a branch of the Promoter Group of Reliance Industries Limited that specializes in stem cell banking.
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