Where Are These Stem Cells Found?
Stem cells are found and retrieved from various parts of the body such as peripheral blood, bone marrow and umbilical cord blood.
Umbilical Cord Blood
Amongst these sources, umbilical cord blood is considered to be a ready source of stem cells and can be preserved at birth and used for treatments when required. Stem cells extracted from cord blood are used efficiently in the treatment of blood related conditions such as Thalassemia, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Neuroblastoma and so on. Cord blood stem cells have been used for over 30 years in more than 50,000+ transplants across the world.
Why Do We Need Stem Cells From A Donor?
Majority (>90%) of the medical conditions would require stem cells from a healthy donor for treatment as our own stem cells contain the same genetic defect that causes the disease, hence they cannot be used for treatment . Stem cell transplant matching (also known as HLA typing) requires 4-6 parameters to be common between a patient and donor and hence the odds of finding a match is significantly lesser than finding, for example, a matching blood unit for transfusion.
Where Can You Obtain Matching Donor Stem Cells?
Matching stem cells can be procured from a ‘Public Stem Cell Bank’ where frozen umbilical cord blood stem cells from unrelated donors are available at a cost. However, public cord blood banks have their own challenges in finding matching stem cells when required.
Public Stem Cell Bank Is Similar To Blood Bank
How To Find Matching Donor Stem Cells?
HLA typing is used to find a matching donor for stem cell transplant
What is HLA?
Human Leukocyte Antigen:
Special proteins that form HLA Markers. These markers help the immune system identify which cells belong to you. The most successful transplant happen when the patient’s HLA and donor HLA closely match9 .
- A test similar to a blood grouping test but much more complex
- Immediate family is the first source of donors as HLA markers are inherited from parents
- 4 /6 HLA match (~67%) between the patient & the donor is sufficient for cord blood stem cell transplant
Challenges Of Finding A Matching Donor In Own Family
½ of your HLA markers are inherited from father and ½ from mother, so a match is difficult for any of the parents.
Siblings have 25% chance of being a full match .
70% of Indian patients do not find a match in the family.
Challenges In Public Cord Blood Banks
Reasons For Low Stem Cell Transplants In India:
India - 6,500 samples & the only public bank has stopped accepting further samples due to lack of funds.
Globally - 750,000 samples and since HLA is ethnicity dependent, the chances for an Indian to find a match in public stem cell bank worldwide is less than 10%11.
- Cost to purchase 1 sample is ~INR 15-20 lakhs.
- Adult may require 2 samples for a transplant doubling the cost of purchase .
- Additional cost of hospital treatment of ~INR 15-20 lakhs.
- Cost of procurement of 1 sample from abroad is ~ INR 30 lakhs.
Need of the Hour
- Bigger Indian inventory thereby, increasing probability of finding match
- Low cost for sample procurement