Jeevan Stem Cell Bank, which was launched about eight years ago, has been collecting and storing donated cord blood for anyone who requires it, subject to compatibility. Cord blood is the remaining blood, in the umbilical cord and placenta, collected after the birth of a baby and after clamping of the cord. It is a rich source of stem cells.
Though it is a relatively new concept in India, the general public is gradually realising the value of donating it says Dr Saranya Narayan, Medical Director and Co-Founder of the bank. She says, “As of July 12, 2016 we have had close to 10,065 donors and of this, roughly 50 per cent (5,090) units have been stored. These figures look a lot better than previous years.” The donors are predominantly from the south — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka.
As a result, the number of matches, which can be classified as 8/10, 9/10 and 10/10 have also increased, crossing the 100 mark. Dr Saranya adds, “There have been 62 (8/10) matches, 41 (9/10) matches and 15 (10/10) matches. This year alone, there have been three transplants for those with blood-related disorders.” However, she admits that there are a number of limitations to work around. She says, “The sample has to reach us within 40 hours of the collection, which involves a dedicated obstetrician and a support team that can dispatch it. This may not be possible in a remote place in Maharashtra, in the absence of a good network of flights and courier services.”
A few transplant physicians in the country are comfortable using cord blood, unlike in the West, where it is more routine. Dr Saranya admits that awareness must increase. “We reach out to people through our website and social media. We have to do more. Recent studies have been in favour of cord blood and transplant physicians across the globe want to optimally use this very precious and easily available resource,” she says.