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Should you choose to go in for cord blood banking? And if yes, how does one go about choosing a stem cell bank?
Genetics was my major during graduation, so I knew the power of stem cells and their use in the cure of certain debilitating illnesses. When our baby was born, we were faced with the decision on whether to store our baby’s cord blood or not.
Stem cells can be used in the treatment of various genetic disorders, certain cancers, blood and immunological diseases. Stem cells also help the body recover from harsh treatments like chemotherapy which is used during cancer treatment.
The umbilical cord which is usually discarded post-delivery is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells – the first type of cells that are formed in the process of the formation of an embryo. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to reproduce themselves and also transform into any type of cells which are present in the body, such as liver cells, nerve cells or RBCs. These cells are a gold mine for research and treatment of many genetic illnesses.
Here is a list of some of the diseases that are treatable by stem cell therapy, courtesy Reelabs, a pharmaceutical company involved in clinical treatment using stem cells, as well as a line of nutraceutical products.
According to the Institute of Medicine, USA up to 20,000 American patients have benefitted from stem cell therapy. On the other hand thousands of patients who are in need of stem cells die every year waiting for a match. Some experts also believe that the chances of a child using his/her own stem cells in the future is very small. This leads to the debate on costs vs. benefits of banking cord blood cells.
Most private banks believe cord blood banking to be a form of insurance that you take for your child’s or family’s future as stem cells found in cord blood can be used for treating close relatives as well, provided they are a match. Plus, if your family has a history of a specific, difficult to treat disease such as thalassemia or immune deficiency disorders, you may want to consider cord blood banking.
Usually, when the need for harvesting stem cells arises, it is done using the bone marrow of a close relative or a match. This is found to be a painful process and it is also difficult to find a match in time. On the contrary, storing stem cells from cord blood is not invasive or painful for either the mother or child.
Some researchers also believe that people should be encouraged to donate cord blood if they do not want to store it. Currently only private banks are available for storing cord blood. In comparison to other countries including the US, India seems to be in the forefront of stem cell research and its uses, with government approved funding and facilities available.
We had this information and also considered the fact that science is moving at a remarkable rate, especially in using stem cell technology to develop cures for many diseases. We also consulted our gynaecologist on whether we should go ahead with cord blood banking. She believed that there are definite advantages in considering banking of cord blood, provided we could afford the costs.
Our doctor asked us to research various companies and choose one that has a good transplant rate. I did my own research and also came up with a few other pointers to consider.
Here is a cheat sheet of tips to consider while choosing a good stem cell bank for your child:
From our experience with cord blood banking, I would also suggest that parents discuss with the bank and try and have a technician present for drawing the cord blood, as there are high chances of contamination during the process of drawing the blood.
Banking cord blood is a decision most parents will have to take for themselves based on the pros and cons of cord blood banking. In case parents are not planning to store the cord blood for various reasons, they could also consider donating the cord blood for research as stem cells promise a brighter future.
This post was supported by Reelabs, although based on research from independent sources. You can find more information here on stem cell therapy and its potential. Always consult with your physician in order to make an informed decision.
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