Doctors’ forum dispels beliefs on commercial cord blood banking

People warned against tactics of stem cell banking companies

Updated - March 09, 2020 01:35 am IST

Published - March 09, 2020 01:28 am IST - Mumbai

Poona Citizen Doctor Forum (PCDF), a body that aims to rebuild trust among citizens and doctors, and promote ethical rational medical practice, has come forward to bust the aggressively promoted concept of cord blood banking.

In a video released by the forum, gynaecologist and activist Dr. Arun Gadre warns to-be parents against falling prey to the emotional marketing tactics by stem cell banking companies.

“Over the past decade, stem cell banking has been aggressively marketed even as its use is still in experimental stages. But these companies charge enormous fees from parents to preserve cells,” said Dr. Gadre, adding it is merely by emotional marketing that companies convince parents to bank the cells for several years promising future therapeutic use.

Cord blood banking involves taking the umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells, and preserving it for future use. Private companies who have forayed into this field offer packages anywhere between ₹50,000 and ₹1 lakh to store and preserve the cells in right conditions.

However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does not recommend commercial stem cell banking. It says so far there is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self use and this practice therefore raises ethical and social concerns. “Private storage of the cord blood is advisable when there is an elder child in the family with a condition treatable with these cells and the mother is expecting the next baby. In other situations, parents should be educated about the limitations of banking at this point of time.”

Despite such guidelines, a nexus of doctors and stem cell banking companies thrives and these companies get access to data of to-be parents. Activists say stem cell banking companies start approaching their prospective customers much before the delivery and offer competitive packages.

“Globally, cord blood banking is recommended as a source of hematopoietic stem cell (derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood) transplantation for haematological cancers and disorders where its use is recommended. For all other conditions, the use of cord blood as a source of stem cells is not yet established,” ICMR’s deputy director general Dr. Geeta Jotwani said.

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