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Deccan Chronicle
19 October 2011
Hyderabad , India

India will become the largest collector of umbilical cord blood in the world thanks to its vast genetic diversity and high number of births every year. Scientists say that blood from the cord is the natural source of stem cells for treatment of genetic and rare diseases. Since India records about 3 crore births every year, preserving the blood from the cord is easier. India has about 12 cord blood banks, including three in the public sector that can provide cord blood to even unrelated people and non–donors.

According to S. Jayesh of the Foundation for Research in Genetics and Endocrinology, “India's booming birth rate and genetic diversity will help it emerge as the largest collector of umbilical cord blood in the world.” There are already about 50,000 samples in the country. He said about 70 per cent of patients of Indian origin, who require bone marrow transplants, do not find a match within their own family.

Therefore, unrelated umbilical cord blood is the only source of progenitors for haematopoietic stem cell transplantation. “However, till date the total number of umbilical cord blood transplants performed in India has been very low mainly due to the high cost of the procedure and limited number of places that have the facility to preserve the stem cell or perform such surgeries,” he added. The country needs as many as 30,000 units.

While the general public has access to the public sector cord blood banks, the private cord blood banks provide service to the donors. Though the demand for cord blood has been on the rise lately, there are no ethical guidelines in place to deal with any possible cases of negligence in the future.

In addition the accreditation of these units has largely been voluntary and only 20 per cent of the existing units in the country are affiliated to internationally renowned bodies. The country does not have a public policy governing the functioning of these units.

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