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If you are pregnant and visiting Gynecologist, you have must have been approached by company representatives or your doctor must have given advice to enroll yourself for Stem Cell Banking. Ever wondered what it is and why is it being marketed as so useful?
There is lot of debate about actual usefulness of Stem Cell Banking.
What are Stem Cells?
Just as all other cells in the body like Red Blood Cell, White Blood Cells and organ cells, Stem Cells are also part of the body. The feature that makes them so important is that they have a fantastic ability to grow into any kind of specialized cell. It can be understand like this. Stem Cells are like blank page on which anything can be written to identify it by a particular name and function. Stem Cells can be grown into RBC’s or organ tissues such as liver, heart etc.
Before birth, umbilical cord blood is a good source of Embryonic Stem cells while after birth bone marrow is good source for Adult stem cells. Adult Stem Cells can be extracted if there is a need for therapy but extracting from bone marrow is a painful procedure and Adult Stem Cells are not that much versatile and flexible as Embryonic Stem Cells.
What is Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking?
Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking or simply called Stem Cell Banking, is a procedure, where umbilical cord blood is taken during delivery to extract Embryonic Stem Cells. These Embryonic Stem Cells undergo special procedures and preserved at temperatures up to -196°C at special centers.
So what is the debate?
The answer is cost, effectiveness and reliability.
Paying for your stem cell banking is like taking an insurance for diseases that may or may not happen to you in lifetime. The efficiency of stem cells would be 100% for the child, 80-90% for first sibling 50-70% for parents and 20-30% for grandparents. While a normal health insurance can range from 15-20,000 INR per year, Stem Cell banking cost around 50-60,000 INR for a period of 20 years. Although both are tax deductible in India, the latter is not covered in your health insurance plan. Although some companies may allow use of stem cell therapy as no other option available treatment for emergency cases.
Next, the cost of stem cell therapy in India costs around 10-15 lakhs. It may be higher as the cost is dependent on many factors such as type of disease, age of disease, age of patient etc. This is nearly impossible for any average service class individual. This cost is less likely to reduce in affordable range within next decade.
Effectiveness and Reliability
Currently the Stem Cells have been used only in few diseases reliably. Most of success stories involve bone marrow transplant to treat blood disorders or immune system followed by some types of cancers. Most other diseases are still in clinical trials stage and no reliable data is available. Stem Cells are claimed to be beneficial in treatment of various disorders. Most of these are neurological, heart problems or liver diseases. There have been claim reports of successful treatment of heart ailments, neurological disorders like dementia and autism etc. Others have claimed to use stem cells in treatment of joint and knee disorders etc.
Stem Cell treatment is generally sought in cases where either all other treatment options have failed or there is no cure by routine medications and therapies.
So what to decide?
This is question that is to be asked to yourself.
First, are you able to afford 50-60,000 INR extra during delivery charges?
Second, has there been any history of diseases claimed to be cured, in your family upto 3 generations.
If your answer is yes, you should go for it. If no, talk to Stem Cell Banking Company about benefits, talk to your doctor and most importantly find and talk to someone who claim to offer stem cell therapy. Understand how many successful treatments they have done. Find out more about the disease and their possibility of “claimed cures” as rare evidences are available with credible information about “cure of diseases” by stem cell therapy. Many times, the expected result is not obtained for unknown reasons. At the end, the answer is always “May or May not”.
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