From childhood to adulthood: How your baby’s stem cells could offer protection for life
The risks of your child developing a childhood illness such as leukaemia, or a debilitating disease like Parkinson’s in adulthood are relatively low – but unfortunately they still exist.
Which is why banking your baby’s stem cells at birth and using them as treatment if the unimaginable happens is becoming a popular form of health insurance for parents across the UAE and GCC.
However, talk of ‘stem cell banking’ is confusing.
So let’s get to the simple facts about what it is, why it’s safe, and how it can treat diseases. And why as an expectant parent, or someone looking to conceive, you may want to consider it.
Did you know? Stem cells are one of the wonders of nature, acting as an internal repair system throughout our lives: regenerating worn-out brain, heart and immune system cells.
Which diseases can stem cells treat and are they effective?
Once you’ve securely banked your baby’s umbilical cord blood, you can get on with enjoying your little bundle of joy – and hopefully forget about stem cells.
However, completely ignoring the potential for health problems doesn’t change the fact that there is still a small but real risk, that something could happen. Even in developed countries, the statistics for birthing and childhood issues (often potentially treatable with stem cells) do make you sit up and think.
Did you know? Baby stem cells can be safely banked after giving birth by immediately collecting blood from a clamped and cut umbilical cord. A reputable stem cell storage company enables you to bank your baby’s stem cells for the future.
More reasons to bank your baby’s stem cells
Banking your baby’s stem cells gives you peace of mind and insurance, should a child develop a treatable health condition – particularly a number of cancers, blood conditions, immune and metabolic problems.
For example, a stem cell transplant could be used as part of leukaemia treatment. The client typically receives chemotherapy treatment before the stem cells are transfused into their bloodstream, where they are transferred into bone marrow, supporting the repair of the immune system.
Did you know? These childhood illnesses have stem cell therapy potential: Leukaemia, autism, traumatic brain injury, sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy, and diabetes.
It’s not as new as you might think
In reality, while stem cell treatment has been used clinically since 1988, when it treated a little boy suffering from a serious blood disorder called Fanconi’s Anaemia, it’s still an emerging medical treatment. However, the therapy has been used to treat over 80 diseases, and the good news is we are still only scratching the surface. If you have a child who does develop a serious or concerning health condition, be sure to tell your doctor or consultant that you have stored stem cells. They may be an effective primary or supplementary treatment option.
At the current time, it’s impossible to say that banking your child’s blood is a cure-all. However, one of the world’s leading researchers on cord blood, Joanne Kurtzberg (President of the Cord Blood Association), puts it well:
‘I predict that the use of cord blood cells…as cellular therapies in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, currently in its infancy, will emerge as one of the major great advances in novel therapeutics in medicine over the next decade.’
Stem cells and chronic adult illnesses – thinking ahead
Research into stem cell therapy is cutting-edge science, with researchers having been awarded Nobel prizes in physiology or medicine, for their work.
And it’s been going on for some time. The idea, for example, to use stem cells in the fight against Parkinson’s disease goes back to the 1970s. Parkinson’s is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain which is a chemical that (among other things) helps us regulate movement and emotional responses. Researchers have been looking at the possibility of making dopamine cells from human embryonic stem cells, paving the way for a new treatment. And it’s a worthwhile endeavour: an estimated ten million people have the condition worldwide.
In terms of the emerging use of stem cells to treat chronic diseases, the potential is immense for treating and even curing conditions such as Parkinson’s disease – providing a longer-term reason to consider baby stem cell banking.
Did you know? Just some of the adult illnesses that have stem cell therapy potential include: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, traumatic brain injury, Crohn’s disease, eye diseases, hearing loss, spinal cord injury, osteoporosis, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
With researchers rapidly unlocking the potential of using stem cells to treat and potentially cure serious diseases, the benefits of having a bank of stem cells are likely to increase over the next decade and beyond. In fact, having a stock of stem cells may also become a useful ‘lifestyle intervention’, with benefits such as younger skin and life extension.
Can stem cell banking benefit siblings and extended family?
Some parents face the dilemma of wanting to bank stem cells for their imminent arrival, but feel some guilt that they haven’t done the same for their other child, or children. This is understandable. However, there is still a reasonable chance of them being compatible donors for one another. So you’ll be making a choice that has the potential to benefit all of your children and potentially your extended family.
It breaks down like this: The chance to use cord blood from one of your children for another child will depend on whether they match up. Essentially, if you have two full siblings then there is a 25% chance of a full match. There’s a 50% chance of being a half match, and a 25% chance of no match. All this is to say it’s certainly beneficial to bank stem cells for all your children.
Stem cell therapy is also an option via donations, in the same way that a heart or liver is transplanted to a client in need. However, there is no guarantee of a genetic match, plus long waiting lists and the stress over treatment – so privately banking your child’s stem cells at birth offers the best option.
With stem cell therapy now establishing itself as an effective treatment for many childhood and adult diseases, banking your baby’s stem cells at birth, offers a form of health insurance which will hopefully never be needed – but could be life changing.
Smart Cells is the UK’s first private cord blood storage company, helping parents from across the world take the pioneering decision to store the stem cells of their babies for greater security of health. For more information on umbilical cord blood banking or to organise a consultation, please email us on UAE@smartcells.com, or click here.
About the author: Shamshad Ahmed, CEO and Founder of Smart Cells International.
Shamshad Ahmed is CEO and Founder of Smart Cells International Ltd. Opening in 2000, Smart Cells became the UK’s first private cord blood company – its goal to give parents more access to potentially life-saving treatment for their families. It is one of the UK’s largest private banks, operating across the globe and storing over 50,000 cord blood samples from people in over 70 countries. Shamshad started his career in finance and foreign exchange at Citibank before moving over to the world of clinical trials. He holds a BA from Nottingham Trent University, and he has been a member of the Young President’s Organization since 2008 – having served on the board for a number of those years.