Importance of Umbilical Cord Blood
Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Umbilical cord blood contains potentially lifesaving cells called “stem cells” that can be cryopreserved for later use in medical therapies, such as stem cell transplants or new emerging therapies.
The use of umbilical cord blood stem cells has increased significantly in the past 20 years and many patients have benefited from these stem cells. To date, umbilical cord blood stem cells have been used to treat nearly 80 diseases, including some cancers, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies with over 50,000 successful transplants worldwide.
Five Reasons to Store Umbilical Cord Blood and Cord Tissue:
Younger and multi-potent: Umbilical cord blood stem cells are young and unexposed to external environmental factors and have the potency to regenerate indefinitely and differentiate into many different types of cells in the human body. These stem cells have been successfully used to treat more than 80 diseases and disorders in children and adults. As per clinical trial database, 3,565 globally and 31 clinical trials in India are ongoing on application of stem cell therapy in the treatment of various diseases.
Life threatening blood disorders: It is estimated that about 27 million babies are born with blood disorders annually. Almost 10,000 to 15,000 infants with Thalassemia and sickle cell disease are born every year in India. Almost 1,00,000 children suffered from thalassaemia major in India in 2008 and the number is increasing rapidly (WHO Report 2008). Such patients need routine blood transfusions during crisis episodes throughout their life span.
Difficulty in finding a suitable donor: Despite 13 million registered volunteer donors presently accessible worldwide, asian patients needing HLA matched donors are unable to get one. About 5 out of 10 caucasians who need stem cell transplant may find a perfect match. This drops to about 1 out of 10 people for the Asian population especially Indian patients, mostly because their HLA types are more diverse. Lack of public stem cell banks with a large database makes it more difficult to get matched samples.
Complex diseases are a major public health concern: Scientists predict that there would be an increase in complex diseases and rare disorders in India. The burden of complex diseases is expected to further increase owing to an increase in life expectancy, demographic transitions, genetic and environmental risk factors. Cancer accounts for about 7% of deaths in India. Nearly 80% of the burden of diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases is now concentrated in developing countries such as India.
Family history as risk factors: Family history is one of the strong influencing factors for developing life threatening diseases and disorders. Common health problems that run in the family include alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which can occur at an earlier age (10 to 20 years before most people get the disease). For such families, the banking of cord blood would be similar to investing in a secured “healthfund” as cord blood and cord tissue are a rich reserve of hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells. Many international committees recommend the preservation of cord blood and tissue in families with a known history of disease or disorders.
*Data Courtesy: Satyen Saghavi, Chief Scientific Officer, Babycell
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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