Everything about Stem Cell and Cost of Stem Cell Banking In India – Complete Guide!
Stem cells can be defined as undifferentiated cells that have the ability to differentiate into any specialized cell. In layman’s language, stem cells can be likened to a blank page on which you can write anything so that a given name or function can identify it. In the human body, there are millions of cells that perform specific tasks. There are cells such as white blood cells that help in defense of the body system, red blood cells that help in the transportation of oxygen through the hemoglobin they contain to mention just but a few.
These cells are referred to as specialized cells because they perform specific functions. The stem cells, on the other hand, do not have a particular function. They can grow to become red blood cells or white blood cells or even the body organ, such as liver or heart.
Before a child is born, the best source of stem cells is the umbilical cord blood. After birth, the best ways to collect stem cells in the bone marrow. For adults, stems cells can only be extracted when there is a severe need for them because it is a painful procedure. Also, adult stem cells are not as versatile as embryonic stem cells.
Stem cell banking, on the other hand, is the process of preserving umbilical cord blood cells so that they can be used at a later date. In children, stem cells are mostly used in the treatment of severe diseases such as leukemia. The embryonic stem cells can be preserved for a period of 21 years, and they can be used within this period if there is a need.
There are different sources of stem cells. The major and abundant sources of stem cells include the following:
- Bone marrow
- Umbilical cord
- Adipose tissues
- Dental stem cells
- Menstrual fluid
- Amniotic fluid
There are various steps that are involved in the harvesting of embryonic stem cells. The major steps that are followed in the collection of stem cells include the following:
- The parents that want to preserve their kid’s stem cells can contact a stem cell banking company with the help of a gynecologist. The storing company provides this service at a cost (we will discuss the cost of storage in another section below).
- The banking company will send representatives to the interested parent to explain the procedure involved and the benefits that the parents will get by storing the stem cells.
- During the delivery of the baby, the banking company will send a nurse to harvest the umbilical cord blood. The nurse will come with a preservation kit to the hospital where the baby is being delivered.
- After the baby is delivered, the nurse will collect between 60 and 80 ml of umbilical cord blood. This collection is done before the umbilical cord is cut.
- The blood sample is taken to the laboratory for processing where the plasma and red blood cells will be removed. This has to be done before 48 hours after the blood was collected. After the RBC and plasma are removed, only the stem cells will remain, and they will be preserved in a refrigerator.
- The cells are preserved with the help of cryo-preservation bioscience, which reduces the temperature to negative 40 degrees Celsius. After this process, the stem cells will be stored in liquid nitrogen chamber where they will be preserved until they are needed.
Cord blood banking
Besides the stem cell banking, there is also the cord blood banking. There are different sources of stem cells, and one of them is the umbilical cord. When the cord blood is collected and then processed and stored, it is known as cord blood banking.
The cord blood is usually collected during childbirth because it is a painless procedure; it is hassle-free and quick. Besides the umbilical cord, the stem cells can also be obtained from other sources that we have listed above.
However, the most common source of stem cells is umbilical cord blood. This is because most companies do not have the technical capacity to process stem cells from the other sources listed above.
Choosing a stem cell storage bank
Before settling on any bank to store your child’s stem cells, it is paramount to ascertain that the bank will store the cells in the best conditions possible. This is essential because it will ensure that your child will be able to get the cells when they are needed to save your child’s life.
Once you settle on any bank, and the procedure has commenced, you cannot be able to change the bank. You cannot change the bank because each bank has its guidelines and standards which are different from another bank. This makes it impossible to change the bank once you have selected one. Therefore, you need to carry out your groundwork well before settling for any bank.
As a parent, before you can allow any banking company to store your child’s stem cells, you need to have a formal agreement with the company. The agreement binds the company to store the stem cells for a period of 21 years. However, the law allows the parents to stop the preservation of the stem cells before the 21 years are over.
If the parents discover that their child does not have any complications, they can terminate the storage of the stem cells. Besides that, the parents have an option on what to do with the stem cells. There are three options available when the parents want to discontinue the preservation of stem cells.
- They can discard the stem cells
- They can donate the stem cells to those parents in need of stem cells
- They can allow the stem cells to be used for research purposes.
Benefits of stem cell banking
The stem cells have the potential of treating more than eighty life-threatening diseases. This is due to their ability to transform into any cell, tissue, or body organ. The storing of stem cells is beneficial in the following ways:
- They can be used in the treatment of severe diseases such as leukemia, erythrocyte abnormality, histiocytic disorders, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease among others
- They can be used in the treatment of inherited immune system disorders and inherited metabolic disorders
- They can be used in the treatment of platelet abnormalities
- Because of the high match between siblings of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), the stem cells can be used to treat diseases that might affect siblings and other family members.
- During transplantation, there are high cases of organ rejections. With the help of stem cells, the cases of graft rejection are minimal because the autogenic stem cells can match in most cases
- The stem cells are readily available when the need arises. This can help to save a life in case of emergency because the stem cells are within reach
There have been few success stories on the use of stem cells in the treatment of different diseases. The use of stem cells is mostly used as the last option where all other treatment procedures have failed or when there is no routine medication or therapy for a given disease.
The success stories in the use of stem cells have involved the transplant of the bone marrow in the treatment of diseases such as blood diseases, immune system disorders, and some kinds of cancer. There are still clinical trials on other conditions, whether they can be treated with stem cells.
There has been a beneficial treatment of different diseases such as heart and liver problems and neurological disorders. Some of the neurological disorders that have been treated using stem cells include dementia. Besides that, there have been success stories in the treatment of knee and joint problems with the help of stem cells.
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Umbilical cord stem cell storage cost in India
There is no uniform cost for the storage of stem cells. The price differs from one bank to another. On average, the storage cost of stem cells in India for a period of 20 years ranges from INR 50 to 60,000. This cost is tax inclusive, according to the Indian government.
However, there are banking companies such as Cryoviva India, which charge a cumulative fee of INR 18,000 once, and you will not pay any extra cost for all the storage time.
Generally speaking, the fee charged is reasonable when compared with the service they offer. They collect blood, process it, and then preserve and make it available whenever the need arises.
Government stem cell banking in India
The government cord blood banking in India helps to support the lives of the general public. The government banks collect the cord blood from different pregnant donors. However, pregnant donors must be healthy.
Once the cord blood is collected, it is stored, and it will be used to save the lives of a citizen who match with the stem cells. Patients who have a rare genetic type are the ones who most benefit from the cord blood that is collected.
For a pregnant mother to donate her cord blood to the government bank, she must deliver her baby at a government hospital that accepts cord blood donations. The government stem cell bank is highly recommended because it helps to save the lives of many patients who need stem cells to survive.
In India, Jeevan is the only registered public cord blood bank. It has its cord blood units registered in the WMDA international registry. Moreover, it has the most substantial cord blood donations in the whole of South Asia. There are other public cord blood donation centers in different parts of India, but most of them are not registered with the WMDA international registry.
FAQS about stem cell banking in India
There are a lot of doubts and misconceptions about stem cell banking in India. In this section, we will address some of the common questions asked:
Q: Does the distance from my home to the stem cell bank matter?
A: A simple answer is no. The distance between your home and the stem cell bank does not matter. The bank that you choose to store your child’s stem cells will send their representative to the hospital where you will deliver your baby to collect the blood sample required. Besides that, most stem cell banks do not have their storage facilities in the same place as their head offices.
Q: Can I transfer by baby’s stem cells from one storage bank to another?
A: A straight answer is no. Once you have chosen one storage bank, you cannot change it. This is because of the different guidelines and procedures that each bank has. Most importantly, the government has not put guidelines in place which control how the samples are collected. Moreover, in the government storage bank, they test samples such that they can be used for any person who needs while in the private storage banks; the sample is only for your child. If you decide to change the banks, you will have to incur all the costs that are involved in the storage of stem cells. For this reason, it is paramount to research the kind of bank that will meet your stem cell storage needs before making a decision.
Q: When should I inform the hospital where my baby is going to be delivered about my agreement with the storage bank?
A: It is critical to inform the hospital where you will deliver your baby before you come to an agreement with the storage bank. This is because there are hospitals that do not allow for the collection of cord blood to take place. Moreover, some hospitals have agreements with specific banks that can collect samples from their premises. Therefore, if you do not inform your hospital in advance, it might lead to unnecessary tussle and be forced to accept a bank that is against your wish.
Q: How is umbilical cord blood collected, stored, and how much does it cost?
A: Cord blood is collected immediately after the baby is born before the umbilical cord is cut. About 60 to 80 ml of blood is collected and out in a safety box. It must be taken to the lab for processing before 48 hours after collection. After processing, red blood cells and plasma is removed, and only stem cells are stored. They are stored in a frozen state at negative 40 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen. In India, the cost of storing stem cells differs from one bank to another. Generally speaking, it ranges from 40 to 60,000 rupees for collection and storage. However, some banks ask for 3 to 5000 rupees for each child’s birthday.
Q: Which diseases are treated with stem cells?
A: Presently, there are several success stories on the use of stem cells in the treatment of diseases such as leukemia, heart disease, muscle, and joint-related diseases, and neurological diseases such as dementia. Besides that, there are still undergoing clinical trials on the possible use of stem cells in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries, retinitis pigmentosa, multiple sclerosis, among other conditions.
The Indian government runs a public stem cell bank whereby healthy pregnant mothers donate cord blood for free. The blood is processed, and the stem cells harvested are run for a match for different public individuals who are in need of stem cells. This does not guarantee that a person will get a match when he needs it, but a patient can get a near-perfect match from the donations received.
Presently, there are only three government cord blood banks in India.
However, due to the high cases of inherited diseases recorded across the country, there is the necessity of private banks. Currently, there are more than fifteen private stem cell banks all over India with branches in most major cities.
However, before using such facilities, it is crucial to conduct thorough research about the bank to know its credibility. Most importantly, you should remember that due to the high cases of uncertainty in the success of the use of stem cells, and the high cost of treatment that comes with it, it is paramount to invest in an insurance cover in case of anything.