The entire act of stem cell banking is built on the premise that in case of any future health issues of the newborn child, or any of his siblings or family members, if there arises a need for stem cell transfusion, the pre-collected stem cells would come to use.
Stem cells have the unique ability of turning into other blood cells, depending on the body’s status. They are sourced from the baby’s umbilical cord and are collected immediately after delivery. Once the baby’s umbilical cord has been clamped and cut off, the remaining blood is drawn out and collected into bags.
The advantage that cord blood cells offer over adult stem cells is that they are biologically younger than adult stem cells from other sources like the bone marrow. This means that they possess higher proliferation capacity and lower risk of viral contamination than adult stem cells.
Stem cells can develop into blood cells that can help fight infection, carry and transport oxygen across the body and also help with blood clotting. In complicated operations involving a transplant, there is always a risk that the body may reject the newly transplanted cells or react against them. To avoid this unfortunate occurrence, in case there is a need for a stem cell transfer, previously stored cord blood – which is rich in stem cells – would be a perfect match.
However, in cases when some congenital diseases or conditions cannot be treated with the baby’s own stem cells due to the problem being present in his stem cells as well, a close match from one or more other donors would be required. Older children and adults generally need stem cells from more than one donor for the treatment to work.
Stem cell banking is a relatively modern-day concept and there is a lot of research going on over the possible cases in where this treatment can be used. For now, it is known to be used in the treatment of some cancers, autologous transplantations, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies like leukemia, aplastic anaemia, thalassaemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It is a widely recommended practice in today. Planning for cord cell banking should be done well in advance. It may involve sufficient costs, especially if you wish to store the newborn’s cord blood privately.
Also let your doctor or gynaecologist be aware about your cord blood banking plans, as the blood should ideally be taken right after the placenta has been delivered. Following that, it has to be tested and frozen for storage.
Cord cell banking may not be possible in cases where the baby is born prematurely, or you have given birth to twins, or in case you have had pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia or severe foetal distress, or you have had a history of diseases like HIV or Hepatitis B.