A study by the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH), Parel, has questioned the efficacy of cord blood banking.
The study claims that very small embryonic-like (VSEL) stem cells, which have the maximum regenerative potential, get discarded during the process.
Researchers at NIRRH have identified VSEL stem cells found in the cord blood and bone marrow, which are pluripotent, meaning that they have the ability to grow into different cells.
“During the volume reduction step of cord blood processing, VSEL stem cells are lost along with the red blood cells,” said Dr Deepa Bhartiya, a scientist working at NIRRH, Stem Cell Biology Department.
The study was published in the January issue of Stem Cells and Development, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Cord blood banking aims to preserve stem cells found in the umbilical cord blood for up to 21 years. If a child, whose stem cells have been preserved, suffers from an ailment later in his life, these cells can be used it for therapy purposes.
“The fact that you can preserve cord blood as a future health insurance for one’s own child may not really be true. Because when the child grows up, the banked cord blood stem cells may not suffice and it may be best to use a fresh pool of four to five samples.
“Cord blood banking as of today is only useful in families with blood disorders and the child’s stem cells can be used for treating the disorder of the sibling with whom their tissues can be matched,” said Dr Bhartiya.
“Stem cells derived from cord blood by standard procedures have less plasticity in comparison to VSEL stem cells. Nowadays, couples are preserving stem cells assuming it will provide a better treatment possibility for their children. But, parents should be aware that these banked stem cells may or may not be of use to help them in future treatment,” said Dr Indira Hinduja, gynaecologist, who has co-authored the article.