Experts bet big on cord blood stem-cell banks to reduce blood disorders

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Experts bet big on cord blood stem-cell banks to reduce blood disorders

Experts bet big on cord blood stem-cell banks to reduce blood disorders

Private Umbilical Cord Blood banking was introduced in America in the 1990’s and in India a decade later. This is after the first successful cord blood transplant in France in1988 which paved the way for cord blood as an alternative source to Bone marrow derived stem cells. Both of which are an approved norm of stem cell treatment for a host of blood related disorders.

With a high birth rate in India and rising affordability amongst parents-to-be in the urban cities, the concept of banking privately the Umbilical cord blood to protect the new born has been on the increase. These cord blood units are collected, analyzed, processed and cryopreserved and since they were being propagated for self-use no grouping or HLA Typing of the blood was advocated.

In 2016, Lalit Jaiswal Promoter Director of CelluGen Biotech, a licensed cord blood bank, through its vertical Mycord brought to light the scientifically proven fact that 90 percent of the blood related disorders are due to hereditary and genetic conditions. As such the child’s own cord blood unit cannot be recommended for self-use.

“This is because donor stem cells will be needed to fight diseases like leukaemia, Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Anaemia and similar blood related disorders. Therefore, for effective treatment of blood-related diseases, Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant is recommended to be that of someone else and not your own says Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director, Haematology, and Bone Marrow Transplant, at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.

According to the paper published in International Journal for Scientific Research & Development, European countries like Italy and France have banned cord blood storage for self-use due to their being almost no autologous (own) usage in the treatment.

Explaining the limited autologous (self-use) application for private cord blood banking Dr Rahul Bhargava says, “Child’s own cord blood can rarely be used for transplant in blood-related disorders, as the disease is mostly present at the time of birth. This is why private cord blood storage for self-use is not recommended for transplant. However an older sibling with a treatable condition could benefit from the stored cord blood unit.”

When it comes to availability of public cord blood banks, India with less than 5000 units stored cuts a sorry figure in finding a compatible match. Even the 600,000 cord blood units stored in public banks worldwide are of little use to Indian patients due to the ethnicity. Further, according to Bone Marrow worldwide annual report 2012, with merely 11 percent of donors, Asia is far behind rest of the world in terms of stem cells donors. Moreover, of these, barely 0.3 percent are registered as HSCs (hematopoietic stem cells) donor in International registries. Thereby making it difficult for patients in India to source matched unrelated donors when in need.

To fill this huge gap in the treatment of blood-related disorders, stakeholders are looking for viable solutions. Hopefully, with growing awareness around stem cell treatments and cord blood pool banking, and more private players coming into the fold, the situation might change in coming future. The fine example to establish itself as a leader is Mycord, the first Private Umbilical Cord Pool Bank not only in the country but the world.

“With growing awareness around cord blood transplant, all we need to do is to help parents make informed choices by offering them better options. Mycord aims to break the current practice of private cord blood banks that allow access to only own cord blood, which in most cases, is of no therapeutic use”, adds Mr Lalit Jaiswal of CelluGen.

The revolutionary concept will allow its members to have an access to other best-matched cord blood samples. “Mycord advocates that each UCB unit privately banked be part of a pool thereby providing an easy access to the best-matched cord blood unit. This can be achieved only if HLA typing is done at the time of storage” says Mr Lalit Jaiswal.

Dr Rahul Bhargava said ‘Banking a cord without HLA typing is like a blood bank without noting the blood group, making the unit thereby effectively useless”. He goes on to say “Storing cord blood of new-borns, which otherwise is routinely discarded, in pool bank after HLA typing, may help treat a large number of children born with blood-related diseases.”

Experts believe that initiatives like Mycord will help enhance donor diversity in cord blood bank, thereby making access of cord blood transplantation to patients belonging to all ethnic background comparatively easier. They are also equally concerned that due to lack of knowledge parents are oblivious to the fact that those who have stored their child cord blood for self-use could have a huge emotional setback should the need arise.