Myths Defeat Purpose
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14 September 2009
The stem cell transplantation is still in the preliminary stage in the country. “Against 10,000 cord blood (stem cell) transplantations in the world every year, our country is still witnessing only 20 transplantations,” said Dr CV Neriker, chief executive officer of the country's only stem cell bank, while talking to TOI on Sunday.
“People tend to raise ethical issues and there are also religious connotations associated with the use of stem cells in the country,” he said. Saying that about 60 per cent of blood cell transplantations was done through umbilical cord transplantation (UCB) in the world, he claimed Indian’s still hesitated to use stem cells from the cord.
“There are a number of misconceptions about the use of stem cells from the cord,” said Dr Neriker, adding researches had shown that the cord was the best and easiest source of retrieving the wonder cells. “The cord provides once–in–a–lifetime opportunity to preserve a biological resource and it should not be wasted,” he said.
“Retrieving stem cells from umbilical cord is a painless process unlike the bone marrow retrieval, which is a painful process,” he said. “The wonder cells are genetically unique source and could be used as a lifesaver for the child or other family members,” he added.
The former blood transfusion officer of Government Medical College, Nagpur, informed while a child had 100 per cent chances of retrieving specialised cells, the siblings had 25 per cent chance of being a suitable match. “These cells are ideal for treating genetically inherited diseases and are fast proving to be life–saving alternative to bone–marrow transplants,” he added.
Dispelling the huge cost factor associated with the storage and banking for preserving the miracle cells, he said the entire cost of preserving the stem cells in the bank was around Rs 70,000 for 21 years, which came to only Rs 9 per day, he said.
They are unspecialised cells that have two defining properties – the ability to differentiate into other cells and the ability to self-regenerate. The ability to differentiate is the potential to develop into other cell types and the ability to self-regenerate is the ability to multiply into own cell types.
After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, some blood remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and the portion of the umbilical cord that remains attached to it. After birth, the baby no longer needs this extra blood which is called the placental blood or umbilical cord blood. It is rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, similar to those found in bone marrow.
Common misconceptions: Myth: The baby or sibling will never need the stem cells if the family does not have a history of cancer
Truth: The stem cells could be required for treating a number of other life threatening diseases, including genetically inherited diseases
Myth: Doctors would never treat the child with his or her own cord blood because it would contain the disease
Truth: This is true only in the case of genetic disorders while the stem cells can be used in treating other ailments
Myth: Cord blood collection would take away important blood from the baby
Truth: The cord blood is generally not needed by the baby except in the case of foetal distress