Starting a little over a decade ago, stem cell banking as a sector has seen an era of totally ignorance and abysmal sales followed by one of raised awareness and rapid rise. Today, it is counted as a sun- shine industry in India, with a very positive outlook for the future. ENNs Rajesh K Sharma talks to some industry pioneers about how this sector is poised to expand, and what holds it back right now.
Expectant parenthood, at the best of times, is a trying period. As parents wait for their bundle of joy to be placed into their hands, their soaring hopes are matched by terrifying dreads about the baby’s health.
This dread is not without its reason, as science has thrown a light upon many diseases that previous- ly went undetected. Diseases like Thalassemia and diabetes, that make their presence felt later in life, can now be detected as early as during the fetal stage. But while warning the parents of future disabilities that the child may face, science has also provided a solution.
Stem cells hold a world of cures for diseases that are considered incurable now. The magical stem cells can help us unlock the mysteries of the diseases that blight us today. But before a cure can be found, it is necessary to collect and store them.
Stem cell banking works on a premise similar to a blood bank wherein the umbilical cord, which was discarded earlier, is collected and stored since it contains cord blood containing the stem cells. A sample of cord blood has a shelf life of twenty years, during which it can be used to cure the donor of a number of debilitating illness.
Stem cell banks have been operational in India for nearly a decade. During this time, they have helped spread awareness about the benefits of stem cells to would-be parents. An expecting parent visiting a hospital or a gynaecologist will surely be made aware about the benefits of cell banking. Even the big hospitals now actively promote stem cell banking to would-be parents.
But in spite of such awareness, the number of people opting for stem cell banking remains abysmally low. Estimates say that all the companies combined have not touched even one percent of market size. The outlook for stem cell banks remains very positive, as even foreign brands try to enter this exciting sector.
eHealth profiles a few of the pioneering stem cell banks in this sector. These banks have been in this business since the beginning, and have seen its rise. Together, they provide a bird’s eye view of this sunshine sector.