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Stem Cells

As your pregnancy nears the end, there are so many things to think about. What will you name your child? Are you going to have a caesarean? Will you breastfeed? But what many women don’t think about is their unborn baby’s medical future. Will that baby be healthy? Will she suffer from some or other disease? Can it be prevented?

Scientists believe that stem cell storage may be the answer.

Despite the leaps and bounds in medicine, storing your baby’s stem cells immediately after birth is still a fairly contentious and personal issue. Many doctors believe that banking your baby’s stem cells, is a medical blank cheque for future diseases. As medicine progresses, so do the chances of using these stem cells to cure what are now, incurable diseases.

But is stem cell storage really necessary for the ordinary family? The only person who can give you an honest answer, based on your family’s medical history, is your doctor.

Here is some information that could help guide you in whatever direction you chose to take:

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells have been referred to as the basic building blocks of human life, the most powerful cells in the human body. Stem cells can develop into different kind of tissues, including skin, blood cells and nerves.

Stem cells are able to renew themselves for long periods through cell division. Under certain conditions they can be tweaked to become cells with special functions.

They are used to treat any future diseases that the child may have and can also be used to treat a sibling.

Where Are Stem Cells Found?

There are three kinds of stem cells that are generally used for research and therapy. This includes cord blood stem cells from the umbilical cord, adult stem cellsfrom the bone marrow and embryonic stem cells form a 4 day old embryo.

What Are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

After the embryo has developed into a baby, stem cells remain in the body to continue to repair and maintain the tissues. A large concentration of stem cells is found in the umbilical cord of a new born baby. Collecting these stem cells is an easy and painless procedure and is therefore a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collect these precious cells that would otherwise be discarded.

What Diseases Are Treated With Stem Cells?

Stem cells are currently used to treat over 70 different blood related diseases, such as cancers of the bone marrow including Leukaemia, inherited blood disorders including Sickle Cell Disease and Fanconi's anaemia, immune deficiencies and metabolic disorders.

Stem cells could also in the future be used for treating type 1 diabetes, cardiac disease, blindness, neurological disorders such as stroke, arthritis and auto-immune diseases.

But because science is ever changing, the list of diseases that could be cured by using stem cells in the future is never ending.

How Are Stem Cells Collected?

Once the baby is born, the doctor will clamp the umbilical cord, approximately 5cm from the baby's tummy.

The cord is cut and the baby is removed to be checked by the paediatrician. A needle is then inserted into the umbilical vein in the cord still attached to the placenta. The blood is drained from the cord in to a blood collection
bag.

After the birthing process is complete, the collected umbilical cord blood is sent to the laboratory where the stem cells are extracted and cryogenically stored.

Where Will The Stem Cells Be Stored?

There are many options including local and international storage facilities.

Netcells offers both local and international storage and can therefore offer advice on the pros and cons of both.


Costs involved

Collecting and storing your baby’s stem cells is not cheap. Many would say that one can’t place a price on your child’s life, but in the current economic climate, a number of parents would not be able to afford this. It’s therefore reassuring to know that some of these companies offer payment plans to parents.

Local storage costs R13,900 for 20 years storage, while international storage costs up to R19,400 for 25 years storage.

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