Cryo-Save debunks eight of the most common stem cell storage myths:
Myth 1: Stem cell storage is costly
Stem cell storage is available to anyone who would like to store their baby’s umbilical cord stem cells. Cryo-Save has multiple cost options and interest-free payment plans from as little as R250 per month to store cord blood and R350 per month for storing both cord blood and tissue.
Myth 2: All stem cells are the same
Stem cells are the body’s internal repair system. It continuously replaces dead or diseased cells with new, healthy cells to ensure normal function of the body.
There are two types of stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and can develop into any type of cell in your body. They’re often controversial because of their origin and this is not part of the stem cell storage services offered by Cryo-Save.
- Multipotent or adult stem cells are found throughout the body and form only certain tissue cells, maintaining your body’s organs as you age. Blood-forming stem cells continuously produce new and healthy red blood cells that are responsible for carrying oxygen to all parts of the body, white blood cells that fight off all foreign invaders like bacteria, and platelets to form clots to prevent excessive bleeding. This ensures normal functioning of the blood and immune system.
Researchers have successfully used umbilical cord stem cells (taken from a newborn’s cord blood) to treat leukaemia and other blood disorders since 1998. Stem cells from a baby’s umbilical cord are considered adult stem cells and, if not cryopreserved, are discarded as medical waste. Therefore, these cells are free of controversy and acceptable to most cultures and religions.
Myth 3: Umbilical cord stem cells can only be used for your baby
Your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells are a 100% match for your baby and a biological parents’ stem cells will be at least a half match. There is a 25% probability of matching siblings and, unlike bone-marrow transplants, you don’t have to have a perfect match in transplants when making use of cord-blood stem cells.
Myth 4: I didn’t store my first child’s stem cells so there is no point in storing for the second child
Partially matched cord-blood stem cells can be used for transplantation, increasing the chances of finding a suitable match. 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, but also other members of the family.
Myth 5: Mixed-race parents can’t store stem cells
On average, the chances of finding a perfectly matching blood stem cell donor for allogeneic transplant are only 1 in 100 000. These odds are significantly lower for people of mixed descent. However, despite its diverse ethnic make-up, South Africa (nor the rest of the continent) has no public cord-blood stem cell bank, which makes the likelihood of finding a matching donor even more challenging. Should a child from mixed descent be diagnosed with a blood-related cancer or disorder, the search for a possible stem cell match can be debilitating to a family’s finances and hope for recovery.
Myth 6: Stem cell banking is only for families with a history of cancer
The uses of cord-blood stem cells have extended far beyond treatments for cancer. Researchers have invigorated the field of regenerative medicine through innovative uses of stem cells.
It’s true that cord blood research started with a foundation in blood-related diseases such as leukaemia. Many people don’t realise that stem cells now play a part in the treatment of over 80 various diseases and conditions. Further, there are countless clinical trials taking place that are seeking to push the boundaries of regenerative medicine.
Myth 7: Stem cell collection is a risky medical procedure
Collecting stem cells from an umbilical cord is quick, painless and non-invasive, posing no medical risk to mother or baby. Once a baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, a standard medical procedure. It is only after the clamping that the blood and tissue are collected from the umbilical cord for stem-cell processing.
Myth 8: Stem cell banking cannot be combined with delayed cord clamping
It is possible to do both. The placenta and umbilical cord hold enough blood to allow delaying the cord clamping by one minute (the recommended time given by the World Health Organization) and still have enough for a successful cord blood collection.