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Cell banking for health

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
By A Staff Reporter

Regenerative therapy using stem cells is the new magic of the medical world these days. Stem cells have the ability to create new tissues when they divide and develop, and are called ‘miracle cells.’

“There are different cells in the body and not every cell performs the same function. Stem cells are immature cells, blank slates or naïve cells,” said Dr. Parijatha Rao, Director, Laboratory Operations, Cryo-Save India, part of Cryo-Save, a stem cell bank from Europe which has earmarked September as their Cord Blood Stem Cell Awareness Month in India. This initiative is to foster understanding about cord blood stem cell storage and its potential applications for various life threatening diseases.

There are various sources of stem cells in the body like the bone marrow, embryonic stem cells, etc, but the stem cells from the cord blood is supposed to be of the purest form and has the potential to treat diseases of the brain, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsons, among several others.

“The cord blood is rich in stem cells and leads to less complications and better outcomes than the stem cells taken from the bone marrow,” said Dr. Rao.

“In India there is huge potential for cord blood stem cells to be used for the family but right now it is being treated only as a biological waste,” said Jack Mark Pinto, Director, Sales and Marketing, Cryo-Save India.

According to Dr. Rajeev Punjabi, Advanced Endoscopic Surgeon, Gynaecologist, Obstetrician & Gynaec Sonologist from Mumbai, getting one’s stem cells banked is like insurance for a certain part of one’s health but people don’t know about it.

“We are far away from the universal awareness about this concept of using stem cells for treatment. It is a promise for tomorrow. Though today, the list of diseases that can be cured using stem cells is short, the future is bright. The ongoing research is showing immense potential,” said Dr. Punjabi.

“Stem cell banking and therapy is expensive and technical. It is a choice made by people. But it has to be an informed choice. With regards to cord blood stem cells, one has to make a choice. I don’t see any deterrent for people going in for this other than the cost. Cost is the limiting factor, but with more awareness, more companies coming in and an increase in volume, I hope the costs will come down,” added Dr. Punjabi.

Cryo-Save charges Rs. 75,000 for processing and storing cord blood stem cells for 21 years.

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