P. Sujatha Varma

Stem cells are the blank slates that change into cells that form various organs of the body

Vijayawada: Not many expectant mothers know that their baby’s umbilical cord holds a miracle, a panacea for all major health-related ills in future.

The gradual mushrooming of cord blood banking companies that enable parents to store their own babies’ cord blood in case the baby or a sibling (who has a 25 per cent chance of being a viable match) got sick in future, comes as an eye-opener for most couples.

For a fee, a private cord blood company will freeze and store the stem cells extracted from your baby’s umbilical-cord blood to use it for treatment in future. “Stem cells are the blank slates and transform into the cells that form the brain, nerves and other body parts, as a human embryo becomes a baby.

Blood must be collected from the baby’s umbilical cord within three minute’s of its birth,” says S. Goutham, franchisee of Cryobanks International India, a private cord blood bank, operating in this region.

One of the 10 such private banks operating in the country, Cryobanks is the first company to have made inroads in the region. Besides Mr. Goutham, the two relationship executives (REs) who represent the company are in constant touch with local gynaecologists apart from holding demonstrations in selected clinics to educate prospective parents.

“The most challenging part is to convince couples that a fee as high as Rs. 75,000 is worthwhile. It takes time to persuade couples before they give their final nod. We also go to individual couples who can afford the option,” says Mr. Goutham.

On an average, the Cryobanks enrol seven to 10 couples every month in the city. “In countries like US, cord blood banking is as common as giving birth to a child. Internet access is a boon, as couples come to us only after grasping the whole concept,” he says.

Payment option

The couples also have the option of making payment in equated monthly instalments of Rs. 6,900 in 12 months or Rs. 3,400 in 25 months.

At the time of enrolment, a sum of Rs. 5,000 is charged and a kit box containing a cord blood collection bag, umbilical cord vials, maternal blood sample collection vials, sachets for sterilization and gel packs to maintain temperature, is given.

The extraction alone costs Rs. 40,000. It is then preserved at minus 196 degree centigrade in liquid nitrogen to freeze all the metabolic activities.

The company representatives take it to Hyderabad from where it is dispatched in flight to the storage point in Gurgaon.

The stem cells are stored for 21 years and the mother remains the caretaker.

The valuable stem cells can be used to correct leukaemia, anaemia, metabolic disorders and many white blood cell diseases.

Rich source

“Bone marrow transplantation, the better known mode to transfer stem cells from one person to another is a complex and risky procedure. Cord blood is a richer source and eliminates many problems associated with bone marrow transplants. Moreover, chances of ‘rejections’ are far less in cord blood stem cells,” he says.

Mr. Goutham can be contacted on 9395199345.