Don’t discard umbilical cords, their blood stem cells can save lives: Experts

According to experts, discarding precious umbilical cord blood units is depriving Indians of receiving treatment for fatal blood-related disorders

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New Delhi:  Stem  cells,  derived  from  the  umbilical  cord  blood,  is  an approved   source   of   treatment   for   various   life-threatening   blood   disorders   including Leukemia,  Lymphoma,  Platelet  disorders,  Thalassemia,  Sickle  Cell  Anemia  etc.  However, despite 25 million babies taking birth every year in India, chances are, a large number of Indians will remain deprived of treatment with fatal blood disorders for want of a matched cord blood unit because of lack of availability.

According  to  a  data,  less  than  5000  cords  are  banked  in  India,  as  compared  to 600,000   cords   banked   in   public   banks   globally. As far as private cord blood banking are concerned, close to 500,000 banked cord blood units are stored in various private cord blood banks for self use only.

Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director, Haematology, and Bone Marrow Transplant, at Fortis Hospitals, says “It is scientifically proven that umbilical cords blood stored for self-use have little therapeutic value as over 90 per cent of the approved conditions are hereditary and genetic in nature, which requires a donor. This is why, till date, only 32 cord blood transplants have taken place for approved blood disorders in India.  Looking at the huge burden of blood- related diseases in the country, this is just not enough”.

Taking a revolutionary step, Mycord the private cord blood bank vertical of CelluGen Biotech, has brought a change in the private banking of umbilical cord blood by introducing in the last quarter of 2016 the pool banking concept. Whereby, at the time of need, the privately banked cord blood units could be used by each other on finding a compatible match.  According to Mr. Lalit Jaiswal the promoter Director of the CelluGen “it is only possible to find a match if HLA typing of each unit is done at the time of storage or else it would be as redundant as a blood bank without blood grouping.”

Experts while praising the initiative of Mycord to enable successful cord blood transplant have voiced their concerns for Private cord blood banks to promote the banking of the cord blood unit for self- use. A practice which has been followed for the past 10 years and over 400 crores collectively invested by gullible parents in the interest of protecting the new born. They are of the opinion that all such units stored in the private banks should comply to the HLA typing procedure at no additional cost and thereby protecting the child whose cord blood unit has been banked with the option of a stem cell transplant which is viable.

Dr Rahul Bhargava further says ““Parents who have banked their UCB privately for self use in the past have done so to protect their newborns with an approved stem cell treatment for blood disorders at the time of need. Those who are fortunate to not have to face a medical situation may not feel the pinch, but the trauma faced by  those  who  actually invested in storing cord blood unit but could  not  use it is hard  to  comprehend,”

India has a huge disease burden of blood related disorders with the number growing every year. To deal with the shortage of the Umbilical Cord Blood units it is important to take collectively the  necessary remedial action by the concerned players in the market, society, medical fraternity and governing authorities.