Community Stem Cell Banking: Ending the waiting game for patients needing stem cells


Earlier this month a communication was shared with you about LifeCell’s new initiative of “Community Stem Cell Banking”, down below is a real-life case that will help you understand the importance of this module & how this can help your family. To upgrade to community banking:

Four years after the mournful death of Dr. Nalini Ambady, the first Indian Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, there is still a huge need for stem cells in India.

Dr. Nalini who hailed from Kerala, lost her battle against Leukemia at an age of 54, as the matching stem cell donor identified for her transplant backed off at the last minute. The doctors attribute her loss to the lack of awareness of stem cell preservation and donation in the country.

Even 4 years down the lane, the challenges that patients face in finding matching donor stem cells remain. Many patients are still left in despair due to unavailability of adequate number of stem cell units, high transplant expense and lack of facilities at the hospitals to initiate a global search.

Stem cell transplant is the only proven and effective therapy for serious conditions such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, neuroblastoma, sickle cell anemia and many primary immunodeficiency disorders. Standard therapy for such conditions includes strong radiation and chemotherapy to wipe out all the affected cells, followed by stem cell transplant that produces new, healthy cells within the body.

Just as how blood from a donor has to be matched by Rh-typing before a transfusion, stem cells from a donor should be HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) typed before a transplant. Only stem cells from donors that are HLA matched with the patient can be infused into the patient. Stem cells are found in various parts of the body such as peripheral blood, bone marrow, dental pulp, umbilical cord and so on. Currently matching donor stem cells can be sourced either from a public stem cell bank in which parents donate their baby’s umbilical cord stem cells at the time of birth or a bone marrow registry which is a listing of donors who are willing to donate stem cells from their body. The biggest challenge in India, however, is that owing to lack of awareness, the number of available donor samples or registered bone marrow donors is very low, making it difficult to find a match.

Dr.Neeraj Sidharthan from Kochi said that in Dr. Ambady’s case, though a bone marrow donor was identified, he had backed out fearing the pain of bone marrow stem cell extraction. According to him, lack of awareness on stem cells, and infrastructure are the major issues in India.

To address this national challenge, LifeCell has initiated its novel model of stem cell preservation called Community stem cell banking designed to overcome all the constraints of stem cell dearth in the country. This model works on the concept of sharing stem cells between the community of parents who have preserved their children’s stem cells with LifeCell.

The stem cells from the umbilical cord of a baby are easy to collect and store during a child’s birth unlike other sources of stem cells which are difficult to extract. These stem cells are also youthful and said to cause fewer transplant complications and have better outcomes, thus are more preferred than other stem cells.

How can community banking help?

If you preserve your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells with community stem cell banking, you can:

  • Gain access to your own child’s stem cells and unlimited units of donor stem cells during need
  • Unlike private banks, this is not limited to just your baby but also extends protection to your entire family including even the grandparents
  • Community banking provides protection of stem cells against all conditions treatable by stem cells for a lifetime.

An ICMR sponsored study recommends a repository of at least 250,000 stem cells to have over 90% chance of finding a matching unit of stem cells. LifeCell, with its growing repository, aims to reach and exceed this number in a couple of years, thereby helping the country leapfrog the dearth of stem cells in the country.


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