Today, the 12th October, is International Stem Cell Awareness Day. To be perfectly honest with you, stem cells were not something I even thought about until I found out I was pregnant.
When you’re a prospective parent, there is so much information coming at you about all sorts of things that it can be completely overwhelming. One of the things we thought about was umbilical cord stem cell saving.
Stem cells should be called master cells as they can replicate, regenerate and differentiate themselves into any one of 200 different specialised cells in the body, and are used to treat over 80 potentially life-threatening blood related diseases including leukaemia, lymphoma and bone marrow failures.
The question was: Should we store Georgie’s stem cells when he is born or shouldn’t we? The idea and hope is that you’ll never have to make use of them, but should something happen, we’d have such peace of mind knowing that his stem cells could save his life.
It came down to simply having no regrets and we decided to store his stem cells for 20 years.
We chose Cryo-Save South Africa as it is part of the Cryo-Save Group, Europe’s largest private cord blood bank. Through its six international laboratories in Geneva, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and UAE. Cryo-Save globally stores more than 330 000 samples and is represented in over 30 countries on three continents.
This is the kit that gets delivered to your door and you take this with you to the hospital.
If you’re trying to make the decision, in celebration and support of Stem Cell Awareness Day, Cryo-Save South Africa has listed the top 10 most noteworthy facts about stem cells that you need to know:
1. Stem cells are your body’s internal repair system. Stem cells continuously replace dead or diseases cells with healthy ones to maintain a normal functioning body. They fall into two major groups; pluripotent and multipotent stem cells.
Pluripotent stem cells are powerful, meaning they can develop into any type of cell in your body. However, these cells are still fraught with ethical controversy. Multipotent stem cells, also called adult stem cells, can develop certain tissue cells to maintain your body’s organs as you age, such as blood-forming stem cells. Blood-forming stem cells produce new and healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to all parts of our body; white blood cells to fight bacteria; and platelets which form clots to pervert excessive bleeding.
2. Best time to collect stem cells is at birth. Stem cells age as we age, so the best time to collect blood stem cells is at birth. These cells have not been exposed to pollution and poor lifestyle choices and can therefore offer greater therapeutic possibilities and better transplant outcomes.
Most gynae’s know exactly what to do and what I loved about Cryo-Save is that we received the small kit and handed it over to our Gynae. It wasn’t evasive or time consuming and it was all done and packed away into the kit and handed back to us (my husband.) In recovery, I had some blood drawn and within an hour of my husband phoning them, someone from Cryo-Save came to collect the kit and got it back to the lab to test and ensure everything was 100%. Here is Sox signing off that we are handing the stem cells over to be delivered to Cry-Save’s Laboratory.
3. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood don’t need to be a 100% match for transplants. Although your baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells are a 100% perfect match for own use, there is a 25% probability for a 100% match for siblings. However, unlike bone marrow transplants, you often don’t need a 100% match using cord blood stem cells, which means the probability of finding a suitable donor is so much greater.
4. Stem cell storage is not that costly. Stem cell storage is available to anyone who wishes to store their baby’s umbilical cord stem cells. Cryo-Save offers multiple cost options and interest-free payment plans from as little as R273.00 per month to store cord blood and R350.00 per month for storing both cord blood and tissue.
5. Mixed ethnicity parents should store stem cells. The chances of finding a perfect matching blood stem cell donor for an allogeneic (matching donor) transplant are only 1:1,00,000, but the odds are much lower for anyone from a mixed-race family.
Despite its diverse ethnic make-up, Africa has no public cord blood stem cell bank, which makes the likelihood of finding a matching donor even more challenging. Therefore, Cryo-Save encourages mixed race families to store their babies’ stem cells.
6. Banking stem cells is not just for families with a history of cancer. Many people don’t realise that stem cells now play a part in the treatment of over 80 blood diseases and conditions.
Every day we are seeing more diseases developing, and more clinical trials are taking place to identify treatments of many of these diseases. Some of the most promising research is being done to use children’s’ own umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of cerebral palsy and autism. Additionally, statistics show that more than 90% of cancers develop due to lifestyle factors, not genetics, and that the incidence of cancer is increasing.
7. Stem cell collection is a safe medical procedure. Collecting stem cells from an umbilical cord is quick, painless and non-invasive, posing no medical risk to mother or baby. It is only after the clamping that the blood and tissue are collected from the umbilical cord for stem cell processing.
8. Stem cell banking is possible with any type of birth. Cord blood and cord tissue collections can be performed at both vaginal and caesarean deliveries. Immediately following the birth but before the placenta is delivered, the healthcare provider collects the cord blood from the baby’s umbilical cord.
9. You can store your second child’s stem cells if you didn’t store for your first child. Today, umbilical cord stem cells are used in more than a third of blood stem cell transplants around the world. Siblings have a 25% chance of being a perfect match. But because cord blood stem cells do not require a perfect match for transplant, the likelihood that siblings will be a match is much higher. Therefore, storing your second child’s stem cells has the possibility, depending on the degree of matching, to treat your first child should a stem cell transplant be required and may also be used for other immediate family members.
10. Stem cell storage is available in South Africa. Cryo-Save has been storing umbilical cord stem cells for families all over the world since 2000. It is the leading family stem cell bank in Europe and ranked fifth most influential cord blood bank in the world by Bio Informant. Cryo-Save South Africa offers both local and international storage options in either Pretoria or Europe for both cord blood and cord tissue. This local laboratory complies with the highest international standards and importantly complies to the coveted American Association of Blood Banks accreditation standards.
Like I said, we hope we never ever have to use them, but should something ever happen to Georgie’s health, we have peace of mind knowing his stem cells are safely stored.
For more info go to their website: www.cryosave.co.za