Is stem cell banking useful?
My wife is pregnant now. Can you please help us in deciding whether we should store our child’s stem cells. Is the stem cell banking useful. Is it worth the money?
Stem cell banking is helpful concept.
Thanks for trusting us with your health concern.
Stem cell banking is a novel concept that is still undergoing a lot of research. First let me clarify what will be most likely done and the reasons and logic behind it and then you can check it out with your company that you want to get associated with.
We are now in an era where a genetic cure to certain diseases is possible. Certain conditions like bone marrow transplant show best results if the cells that are transplanted come either from the person itself or from a near or dear one. All individuals are unique and yet we do share some similarity with each other as we are all human beings. This similarity and uniqueness both lies in some entities in our genes called HLA. So everyone has some uniqueness in thier HLA while some part is common in every one. People of one family and especially first degree relatives like parents and children or second degree relatives like aunts and uncles share a lot of part of HLA in common. So when there is a need to donate organs or bone marrow etc then it is more likely that donors from a family will match more than other people and the procedure will be successful as the donated part will be less likely rejected by the patients body. So this is the basic of it.
Now about what happens with cell banking. The cells that are present in the umbilical cord are unique as they are the cells that can potentially give rise to different types of cells. So we hope in future that we may be able to produce organs like for example pancreas [ the one that makes insulin that helps to control diabetes] from these cells. So if the person whose cells are banked or a family member gets diabetes this new pancreas can be transplanted inside and remove the need for medicines and the disease will be cured. These are still hypothetical concepts and research is going on. Currently more focus is on bone marrow transplant in case a person needs it and skills for these are available. We do not know the future about how things will span from here on and in future we may be able to develop other organs like heart or liver or lung etc. But when this will happen we do not know.
As you must have understood that the likelihood of needing a bone marrow transplant in any baby or a near and dear family member is extremely low. Also the cost that will be involved in all the process even if a transplant is needed will be very high and so you must be in a position to bear it at that time.
Also many companies keep the cells for a limited time under your name. Most of the time they do it for 10 years which is hardly sufficient time to allow the baby whose stems are stored to develop diabetes or similar chronic condition. Once the fixed time is over they tend to shift the cells to a common pool where they can be availed by any one in need by paying money and so your cells may not be available if you need them in future. This is an unfortunate way that the innocent people are being cheated by these companies as ultimately they sell these cells that you have paid to keep.
A few companies also provide a long term storage at additional cost.
So please check and see the package that these companies are providing. The concept is very good and may be very useful in future as genetics is a branch where maximum research is going on. But the catch is that they should provide you with a long term package that ensures that the cells will be available when needed by you or your family. So talk this out and negotiate this with the cell banker and the decide about it.
I have tried to explain it as best as I could.
I am always here to satisfy any further queries that you may have though I may not be able to comment on individual companies.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. Rakhi Tayal.
For future query, you can directly approach me through my profile URL http://bit.ly/Dr-Rakhi-Tayal
While storing stem cells, are HLA typing test and CFU Assay test mandatory. Some of the card blood banks are doing these testes while storing the stem cells and charging more money some are not doing these tests. Should we go with the company which is doing HLA and CFU tests?
Please advise us.
HLA and CFU tests will help.
Thanks for writing again.
HLA and CFU tests are necessary to know the type of cells being preserved. It is best to go with the company which is doing these tests.
Hope my answer is helpful.
Do accept my answer in case there are no further queries.
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