Stem Cell Banking in India : Ultimate Guide
Stem cell banking is confusing.
What are the advantages?
Is it worth it?
What is the cost?
When you search the internet for stem cell banking, there exists a huge hubbub of information .
Don’t worry! We are here to sort out your confusion by breaking up the whole process of stem cell banking into easy and manageable tasks
We are now going to guide you through this task in the form of a 2 step process:
Step 1: Educate you to make an informed decision whether stem cell banking is a NECESSITY for you?
Step 2: If it is a necessity, how do you choose the right stem cell bank?
If you have already done your research and only need help selecting a right stem cell bank, click here to jump directly to step 2.
Educate yourself about stem cell banking
Start your search early.
Preferably during your 2nd trimester (13 to 28 weeks).
This should leave you with enough time to gather as much useful information as possible.
For technical details about stem cells check out: “Stem Cell Banking – The Complete Technical Guide”
Things to do during your research phase
What should you do?
1. Talk to people
2. Read Forums
1)Talk to People
Talk to your gynaecologist, relatives, friends and neighbours.
Ask them about their experiences if and when they went through the process of finding a cord blood bank.
These are a list of questions you need to ask.
- What is Cord Blood Banking and what are its benefits?
- Which is better to use – a public or a private bank facility?
- What are the odds of my child or a family member ever needing a stem cell transplant in the future?
- What kind of diseases can be cured with a stem cell transplant?
- When and how is a cord blood sample collected?
2) Read Forums to gather more information
You can also search on quora
You can use these search terms:
“Stem cell Banking”
“Stem cell therapy”
“Cord blood benefits ”
These forums are usually filled with concerned parents eager to share their experiences.
THE BEST WAY:
If you are interested in finding more such forums, just copy and paste the below text in google search.
DO IT LIKE THIS:
inurl:forum + “cord blood banking”
inurl:forum + “stem cell banking”
Registering yourself (registration is free in almost all cases) is a necessity if you want to interact with fellow parents.
Selecting the right stem cell bank
You want to be sure and confident that your baby’s cord blood is being stored in the best conditions which make it possible for your baby to undergo life-saving procedures if and when the cord blood is required in the future.
Once a decision is made about your stem cell bank and the operation carried out, you cannot change your mind.
The lack of guidelines and varying standards make it almost impossible to make changes to your choice of stem cell bank.
So, how should you do it?
FOLLOW THESE STEPS:
Here is a step by step guide on selecting the right stem cell bank:
Step 1 : Make a list of stem cell banks
The first thing you want to do is to make a list of stem cell banks in your area.
Open GOOGLE MAPS
Type: “stem cell banks in <city name> ” or “cord blood banks in <city name>” into Google Maps to get a list
Eg: Stem cell banks in bangalore
Alternatively, Justdial also provides a list of banks which are situated in your city/locality of residence.
IMPORTANT : Local stem cell banks are as good as international banks as long as they have good accredation, transport and storage facilities, financial banking etc.
The BEST WAY to get detailed information about a certain stem cell bank is:
Contact them and request for a presentation at your home or any place of your convenience.
Then, it will be easier to compare the merits or demerits of a stem cell bank against the competition. Their presentation should give you information about the following parameters:
Accreditation and financial health of the company
Storage and shipping of the sample
Cost of the stem cell banking
Compensation/Replacement in case the sample is not viable/lost
To help you out, we made a list with contact details of some STEM CELL BANKS INDIA (CITY WISE).
Step 2: Check for Accreditation
Now that you have a list of banks, you can narrow it down by checking for accreditation
These are the accreditation standards that your bank must have :
1)DCGI – license for operating in India
2)ISO certification : international organsation standards certificate eg : iso 9000 (almost all companies have it )
This is important to check :
- Either AABB ( American Association of Blood Banks ) or FDA: (Food and Drug Administration)
At least one of these 2 IS A MUST for the safest standards.
Where can you find this information?
You can find the accreditation standards maintained by a particular blood bank by opening its official website and clicking on “About Us” or something to that effect.
Stem cell banks usually wear these standards like a badge of honour and place them prominently.
STEP 3: TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY?
Now that we have moved accreditation standards out of the way, it is time to get to the nitty-gritty of the matter.
If you are serious about storing your baby’s cord blood, you will probably end up in the middle of presentations being given out by various cord blood banks.
If there is one thing in common between all the banks, then it is their firm belief that their respective processing method is the most advanced and hence, the best in the country!
They will even provide scientific papers which serve to emphasize that firm belief.
We are here to throw light on the fundamentals of cord blood processing which is backed up by the latest and, more importantly, unbiased research. This will hopefully guide you through a very tricky puzzle.
Before breaking down the various processing methods, it is VITAL to understand a few technical details.
If you were to wonder about the single most important factor influencing the storage of your baby’s cord blood, then it would boil down to the Total Nucleated Cells (TNCs) count.
The no. of TNCs in the cord blood indicate the amount of potential stem cells available for transplant in the future. Hence, the more the no. of TNCs, the better the chance of a successful transplant (if and when it is needed).
Since the number of cells is vital, you might be interested in knowing that 1 ml of your baby’s precious cord blood contains 8.6 million TNCs!
The volume of cord blood available for collection at the time of birth usually varies from 20-200 ml. For storage purposes, cord blood banks prefer collecting at least 40 ml of cord blood.
Storage volume is dictated by the fact that patients suffering from say…cancer will need at least 25 million TNCs per kilogram of his/her body weight.
If a patient needing a cord blood transplant weighed 10kgs, then he/she would need at least 250 million TNCs (or roughly 30 ml of cord blood) for a decent chance to survive. Since none of the cord blood processing methods are 100% efficient,
40 ml is the minimum volume preferred for storage.
On the other hand, if the patient needing a transplant is an adult (leading to weight in excess of 30-40kgs), then the stem cell transplant takes place in 2 rounds.
ROUND 1: His/Her own cord blood stored at the time of their birth.
ROUND 2: Cord Blood sourced from either a sibling or relative whose cord blood has been stored in a private bank or by getting a donor match at a public bank.
Siblings and relatives tend to have a decent chance of being good stem cell donors.
Now we move onto the processing methods themselves. Many different processing methods have been used over the last 2 decades (including unprocessed cord blood being transplanted into the patient directly). But by narrowing down the most popularly used methods, a few scientists were able to compare 5 distinct ways of processing cord blood.
- Hetastarch (HES)
- Plasma Depletion
- Density Gradient
Of the 5 above-mentioned methods,
Sepax is the sole fully automated (completely controlled by machines) method whereas PrepaCyte-CB is the most recently developed.
The scientists conducted experiments to find out which is the most efficient cord blood processing method. During their analysis, no single method came out significantly better than the rest. Hence, a league table was devised to weigh every method according to different attributes. And the results are as follows:
Img Source: NCBI
Their findings suggest that:
- Sepax is the most efficient method for TNCs recovery.
- But PrepaCyte-CB is the most consistent performer over the whole range of analysis.
Another benefit of PrepaCyte-CB is that it functions in a completely closed system reducing the risk of contamination to a bare minimum.
It is important to note that while Sepax (& it’s improved upon successor Sepax 2) are widely available in India,
PrepaCyte-CB is not yet available to the general public.
Though theHealth Ministry of India has already approved PrepaCyte-CB usage in 2012, it has not been adopted for processing by any of the public or private cord blood banks just yet (at the time of writing this article).
To conclude, if you were to decide your cord blood bank based on the efficiency of the processing method alone, then
PrepaCyte-CB should probably end up being your top priority
Since it is not yet available (and your baby is probably in a hurry to come into this beautiful world as well!), based on the research,
Sepax or Sepax 2 come highly recommended by some prominent members belonging to the scientific & medical community
Step 4: Check for financially stability
Any commercial activity can go bankrupt. And cord blood banks have to survive for decades before being financially stable.
In such circumstances, the insurance plan of the blood bank has to be looked at in minute detail. What is the insurance coverage in case of business failure or a natural disaster?
Who are the financial backers of the bank? Is it a subsidiary of its parent company? What kind of hospitals or research institutions is it affiliated with?
Predicting the future is very tough. But it is in your best interests that the blood bank of your choice manages to survive at least 20 years in an incredibly competitive business environment.
Step 5: Ensure the bank has proper shipping and storage facilities
For shipping :
The blood has to be shipped at an ambient temperature of 15-25°C.
The Stem Cells have to reach a bank within 48 hours for storage or they will begin to die.
Does the bank of your choice employ specialized couriers to transport cord blood ?
Here is another important aspect to keep in mind :
It is also wise to ask the sales representative or the manager of a blood bank about the repercussions of a lost sample.
How are you compensated in case of a lost sample during transportation or if the sample is not collected at the time of birth due to some unforeseen circumstance?
As soon as the cord blood arrives at the storage facility, it is processed for optimal cryogenic storage.
This basically involves separation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) & plasma from the White Blood Cells (which contain the all-important stem cells).
This processing varies from bank to bank.
As long as the accreditation standards of the storage facility are sound, you can be rest assured that your cord cell are in safe hands
For more information on the various techniques involved in the processing of cord blood, the AABB website is an excellent and more importantly unbiased source.
This is a list of questions you need to ask with regards to storage :
- Is the bank’s storage facility located in an earthquake-prone area? Is the facility itself built in an earthquake-resistant manner?
- Is the facility equipped with adequate fire-fighting measures?
- What kind of emergency measures are in place for the smooth running of critical equipment in case of a power failure?
- How will the inventory of stem cells be safeguarded in the event of a natural disaster?
Step 6 : Find out the Cost of Stem Cell banking :
As you can imagine, storage services for more than 2 decades is bound to be expensive.
The total cost for one whole cycle of a cord blood banking service can be divided into 2 parts:
1. Initial Enrolment fee
This is collected when you initially agree to avail the services of a blood bank.
A fee for collecting the cord blood sample might or might not be included in this.
This initial fee usually varies from Rs. 5,000 – Rs. 20,000 depending on the bank of your choice.
2. Storage Fee
This can be paid in the form of a one-off payment or in monthly installments.
You can even store your baby’s cord blood samples at one or two sites so as to avoid natural disasters or failure in power supply.
This fee varies from Rs. 20,000-Rs. 3, 00,000.
You can compare some of the simple features (accreditation, pricing etc.) of some of the nationally prominent cord blood banks here.
You can also compare their features in a detailed manner here.
Make sure you select the corresponding boxes of 2 blood banks and then proceed to click on “compare banks”.
DO IT LIKE THIS:
Don’t forget :
To check with your sales representative for HIDDEN COSTS.
Now that the cycle of finding the right cord blood bank in India for your purposes has been explained in detail, it is time to debunk common misconceptions and doubts.
Does distance matter?
While considering a bank, the distance between your home or chosen maternity ward and the blood bank should NOT be a factor.
In most cases, a blood bank’s headquarters and its storage facility are not even in the same state!
Can I transfer my child’s stem cells to a public bank after it is stored in a private/family bank?
No. Differences in the process of collecting samples as well as the lack of regulatory guidelines make such a transfer almost impossible.
Even if guidelines are put in place, samples of a private bank have to be tested further to check if they are suitable for strangers in need of stem cells. This will only increase the costs as well as being unfeasible for a large number of samples.
Should I alert my hospital about the necessary arrangements before or after coming to an agreement with a cord blood bank?
Always alert your hospital BEFORE coming to an agreement with a cord blood bank.
Some hospitals do not provide an option for a transfer of the umbilical cord to take place.
Other hospitals might have an exclusive tie-up with certain blood banks.
You might end up having to deal with a blood bank against your will if the hospital’s protocols are not taken into consideration.
Bonus Feature :TRUE STORY
Stem Cell Banking Experience : Straight from a mother
Let’s hear straight from a mother Mrs Gayatri Ashok , an employee of Infosys, from Hyderabad who opted the process of Stem Cell Banking for her first and only child Sri Smaaran from a Stem Cell Banking company in Gurgaon, India.
Here are a few questions we have asked this happy new mother, Mrs Gayatri Ashok. Let’s look at her Stem Cell Banking Experience
1. Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Can you briefly tell our readers what stem cell banking is all about?
We have gone for Stem Cell and Placenta Cord Banking.
Stem cells are the cells found in the umbilical cord which have the ability to renew themselves and differentiate into several specialized cell types.
In the future, heaven forbid, if anything happens to the child, the body needs specific cells to heal itself.
The stem cells which are stored can be grown and transformed into specific cells required by the body.
However, research is still taking place to ascertain the exact scale of success.
Stem cells from placenta are given for storage immediately after delivery. After the blood from umbilical cord is drawn, stem cells are collected from the placenta and stored along with it.
2. What is the process used for cord blood processing for your baby?
Sepax Cord Blood Processing.
Our doctor had advised it to be the most sterile and safest method of fully automated cord blood processing.
3. Why did you go for Stem Cell Banking?
My husband Ashok and I wanted to secure the health and all parts of our son’s body.
Mishaps don’t intimate you before touching you. Why not be prepared for every situation before it is too late?
With the advancements in technology, stem cells might do wonders tomorrow.
Though its advantages are unpredictable today, some magic might happen tomorrow.
4. How can stem cell banking help your child in the future?
Like I have said earlier, stem cells can be increased in number and can be specifically transformed into the cells that the body requires.
It can repair some organs of the body. This, we thought, can help our son in having a healthy future
5. How sure are you about its advantages?
Before delivery, we have found out details about stem cell banking from my doctor in Hyderabad.
She said this can considerably increase the chances of your baby to lead a healthy and perfect life even after a mishap.
We thought, why not improve his quality of life when we have an option to give the most valuable thing to our son.
We are also completely aware of the fact that this might or might not give positive results. But still, we didn’t want to take any chance with respect to our son’s life.
6. Can the stem cells of every child be stored? Or is it only possible for a healthy child?
Placenta is something that every newborn child will have and so are stem cells.
If there is any problem with the placenta during pregnancy, then the baby might not get enough nutrients for its growth, leading to an emergency.
7. How did the doctor explain to you about the whole process?
My doctor had told us that the success rate of stem cell therapy is around 60% and if the advancements in technology take a positive direction, stem cells have the ability to do wonders.
She asked us to go for it, if we can afford it.
For a mother, 1% chance to save her child is enough to take a risk and 60% is really too good not to go for stem cell banking.
She also pointed out it cannot harm my baby and me in any way, except for the success rate.
So what is the harm in sitting back and expecting something good to happen?
8. What is the process involved to retrieve stem cells from the bank?
We (the parents) or our first degree blood relatives are eligible to collect stem cells from the bank.
We have stored Smaran’s stem cells and placenta in a bank in Gurgaon.
They have collected it from Hyderabad where my delivery took place.
For now, we have the ownership of his stem cells along with the responsibilities of charges incurred.
But once he grows to a legal age, ownership can be transferred.
9. What is the approximate cost?
Rs. 25,000 was the amount we paid initially followed by Rs. 8,500 per year for the next five years.
10. Are there any yearly banking renewal charges?
Once we are done with paying Rs. 7,500 for five years, there are no other additional charges.
11. For how many years will the stem cells be stored?
Our bank has promised to store Smaran’s stem cells for the next 21 years after which it is our decision to either renew it or to let them perish.
12. What advice do you want to give to all the mothers out there reading this article?
I believe, there is only one pretty child in this world and every mother has it.
If you can afford Stem Cell and Placenta Cord Banking, I think there is no harm in going for it. After all, it is for our child’s future.
This is what this proud mother had to tell us. Now it is up to you to decide whether to go for it or not.
Happy Parenting !!!
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