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It is natural for expecting parents to prepare their home and environment for the arrival of their baby. This includes childproofing home gadgets and furniture to purchasing new ones to ensure safety. Another procedure that allows parents to safeguard against future medical emergencies is stem cell preservation of their newborn’s umbilical cord blood.
Why is Umbilical Cord Blood Preserved?
Stem cells are the primary cells produced in the body that have the ability to convert into other types of cells. Stem cells are present in umbilical cord blood (as also bone marrow), and are known as haematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs). When HPCs are injected in patients of certain diseases like sickle-cell anaemia, lymphoma, leukaemia, etc., they grow and divide to form healthy cells, allowing the body to heal from the effects of the disorder or their treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
The stem cells present in the can be saved and preserved for up to 20 years of the child’s life.
Pros of Stem Cell Preservation
- HPC cells of the bone marrow also serve a similar purpose(stem cell preservation). However, the HPC cells from the umbilical cord are even lesser mature than the bone marrow stem cells, increasing their chance of being accepted by a recipient.
- The procurement of umbilical cord stem cells is relatively easier and painless.
- Stem cell preservation is valuable for couples that have a family history of cancer or other illness.
Downside of Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Banking
- These stem cells are of no use in case the child develops a genetic disorder. This is because the genetic makeup of the preserved stem cell is the same, and it will also carry the genetic abnormality in its DNA.
- Cord blood cells banked privately have specific health insurance policy restrictions. Stem cells might not be the right course of action for a particular illness.
- The umbilical cord stem cells might not be useful in saving a family member, say, siblings. This is because there is only a 25% probability of a genetic match between siblings. Further, the cord stem cells are limited, and only sufficient to treat a child, but not an adult.
- Stem cells from the umbilical cord are not the only way of treating the child. Bone marrow donation from the bank or a family member or alternate treatments for diseases like leukaemia is possible.
Making the Decision – Yes or No?
Deciding to save one’s child’s umbilical cord blood is a personal choice, but one need not be pushed into doing so because everyone is doing it. Discussing the matter with the doctor, researching the policies and process followed by some banks, and weighing the pros against cons can help a couple make their decision.
“Banking Your Baby’s Cord Blood,” WebMD.com, R. Morgan Griffin, https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/banking-your-babys-cord-blood
“Benefits of Cord Blood Banking Questions,” https://www.cordblood.com/best-cord-blood-bank/faqs
“Stem cell banking, a hit with couples,” The times Of India, Zeenia F Baria, Feb 19, 2011, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health/Stem-cell-banking-a-hit-with-couples/articleshow/7522056.cms
Image courtesy of [Victor Habbick] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net