IN WHAT was till recently thrown away as a medical waste lies the hope of a secure future for your newborn. Blood from the umbilical cord, generally discarded after a baby’s birth, is a rich source of stem cells which are stored and used for treating diseases which may afflict a child.
And people in Madhya Pradesh need not look far as the facility is now available in Indore. Such facilities are available in India only at four to five places even as the concept of storing the cord cells in a stem cell bank is fast catching up in metros. However, what Bhandari Hospital and Research Centre (BHRC), part of the Aurobindo Group of Hospitals, here is offering is a facility to collect umbilical blood, extract stem cells from it and then transport it to a Pune-based cord bank.
“On an average, an umbilical cord has 100 ml of blood. This has hundreds of stem cells. Our human form is a creation of just one stem cell. Naturally with these cells available, it would always be useful in any future research and treatment,” according to Dr Akhouri R S Sinha, Director (Administration and Planning) of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (SAIMS), part of the Aurobindo Group.
In India, stem cells from bone marrow are being used in treatment of blood disorders, particularly leukaemia. But it’s only now that storage of cord blood is catching up.
“What we do at BHRC is ‘milk’ blood from the umbilical cord, separate the stem cells by different procedures and store it in a prescribed manner. This is then sent to Cord Life Biotech at Pune,” Dr Sinha said adding, “The parents pay the storage charges to the company, we are involved only in the process of extracting and transporting the same in a proper cold chain.
BHRC has started the facility and already five parents have come forward to store the cord stem cells of their baby. Stem cells thus extracted are to be stored at –121 degrees C in liquid nitrogen for 24 hours, which makes it costly, way beyond common man’s reach. But those who can afford, they can secure their child’s future, and possibly his siblings’ too, by paying something in the range of Rs 50,000 to Rs 90,000 for 21 years.
So if a child develops complication at a later age, his own stem cells can come to his rescue. For instance, the stem cells can regenerate his damaged liver or even portions of heart.
Another advantage is that other family members, particularly his siblings, can benefit from it. Chances of matching with the siblings are high rather than having it from a foreign donor.
There are also no ethical issues involved unlike in cultivation of stem cells in petri dishes. Big houses like Reliance Life Sciences have started working on stem cells. Life Cell was India’s first cord blood stem cell bank set up two years ago. The Centre has decided to make stem cell research a thrust area.