Cord blood stem cell banking was a foreign concept to the Indian population until a few years ago. However, due to the increased use of stem cells in regenerative treatments, more & more are opting to preserve their baby’s stem cells.
Types of Stem Cell Banks in India
In India, the stem cell banking services are mainly provided by:
- Privately-held banks
- Government-owned (public) banks
- Community stem cell bank
Private Stem Cell Bank
Private stem cell bank is also known as 'family bank,' where parents preserve their baby's cord blood to ensure its availability for any future use. This practice is considered a form of "biological insurance," where stem cells are used either by the child or a family member such as a sibling. As part of the consensus statement (2018) on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics discourages parents from storing their umbilical cord stem cells with private banks, unless a family member or a baby is suffering from a genetic condition only treatable by autologous or family stem cells.
Government-Owned (Public) Stem Cell Bank
Public cord blood banks work on the concept of donation, wherein the public donates their child's cord blood. Anyone in need can use cord blood samples stored in these banks. Public banks also use donated sample for stem cell research.
However, parents are required to meet some eligibility criteria to donate their child's cord blood in public banks. The sample database of public banks is also made available to doctors and can be used if needed. Currently, public stem cell banks available in India have only a limited number of stem cell units ready for therapeutic usage. The available stem cell units for transplant are extremely low compared to the treatment demands. The first public bank in India, Jeevan (also known as BeTheCure.in) had shut down in 2017 due to funding issues.
Community Stem Cell Bank
In this model, umbilical cord stem cells are added to a community pool. In the event of a medical need, members of the community bank can access to all the units stored in the community pool. Therefore, this model combines the best of both the private as well as public banking. What makes this model unique is that fact that the community model combines the best of both the aforementioned stem cell banking models. LifeCell International pioneered the community stem cell banking model in India. It is the largest stem cell bank in India and the 3rd largest in the world.