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Cord banking : Health insurance for your child |

Health And Family

Cord banking : Health insurance for your child

JOYFUL HARVEST - Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao - The Philippine Star

Think of it as the additional insurance that really counts. While the usual health insurance plans will only cover expenses for medicines, hospitalization, and doctor’s fees, cord banking significantly improves the chances for complete cure and recovery should your child fall ill. As scientific research continues to show that an increasing variety of medical anomalies or diseases can be corrected by stem cell treatment, there is, concomitantly, a growing awareness of the need to save a child’s precious stem cells at birth.

Both the umbilical cord and cord blood within it have been shown to be rich sources of stem cells. Because of this, technology has been developed so that both can be cryopreserved and used in case a medical therapy is required. In the Philippines, a company called Cordlife is the first and only blood processing and storage facility registered with the Department of Health. Operating since 2010, it is a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Cordlife Group Limited, which owns and operates processing and cryopreservation storage facilities across Asia.

 â€œCordlife Group is a service provider of umbilical cord blood and tissue banking with more than 12 years of cord blood banking experience, as well as a track record of cord blood transplants,” says Jeremy Yee, executive director and chief executive officer of Cordlife Group Limited. “Our company is highly regarded as the largest and most experienced network of cord blood banks with more blood banks and storage centers across Asia Pacific than any other in the region.”

 He explains that Cordlife’s facilities are managed by highly qualified laboratory biotechnologists, and equipped with multiple back-up systems to ensure integrity and viability of stored samples. The company’s facility at UP-AyalaLand Technohub can store over 20,000 units.

But how exactly does cord banking work? After the umbilical cord and blood units are collected at birth, these are sent to the Cordlife facility for processing and verification to ensure that the samples belong to the right client. A cryoprotectant solution is then added to safeguard the viability of the stem cells. Thereafter, the blood and tissue are frozen gradually in a controlled-rate freezer, then transferred into an anti-contamination vapor-phase liquid nitrogen system for long-term cryopreservation at below negative 150 degrees Celsius. There is no expiration date and they remain viable even after several lifetimes when kept in proper storage conditions.

But why the need to preserve both the cord blood and umbilical cord tissue? Dr. Arvin Faundo, medical director of Cordlife Philippines and Indonesia, consultant on stem cell transplantation in various hospitals, and clinical associate professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, explains that different kinds of stem cells can be derived from each.

“Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are the majority of cells that can be found in cord blood. These are the ‘precursor cells’ that have the unique ability to differentiate into red blood cells which transport oxygen; white blood cells that produce antibodies and fight infections; and platelets for blood clotting,” Dr. Faundo says. “On the other hand, the umbilical cord has both epithelial stem cells (EpSCs) that are pluripotent, which means that they have the capability to differentiate into various epithelial cell types; and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are multi-potential and can form bone, cartilage, muscle tissue, fibrous tissue and fat, or become neural tissue or organ (such as pancreatic) tissue.”

Clinical studies using MSCs are ongoing and stem cell treatments have been proven safe and capable of repairing muscles damaged by stroke.

Likewise, stem cells are being used to treat diseases including blood cancers (like acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and others); solid tumors (Hodgkin lymphoma, retinoblastoma, neuroblastoma); non-malignant blood disorders (such as thalassemia major and sickle cell anemia); and metabolic disorders including Gaucher’s disease (a genetic disease where fats accumulate in cells and certain organs) and osteopetrosis (or “marble bone disease,” where the bones become more brittle than usual so that they have a greater tendency to break.) Stem cells from cord lining can also regenerate the cornea in the eyes.

Another field with exciting possibilities is stem cell treatment for wound healing. For Dr. Phan Toan Thang, it was interaction with numerous wound, cancer, and burn victims in his native country of Vietnam that spurred his interest in the application of stem cells in skin and wound research. With his peers, Dr. Phan’s studies have shown that the potential for wound healing and tissue regeneration is tremendous.

But then, stem cell treatment is not just for life-threatening afflictions. The use of stem cells has been shown to significantly reduce the severity of acne scars, prevent alopecia (baldness) and stimulate hair growth. Thus, by saving your child’s stem cells at birth you do not only give him protection against serious afflictions. Stem cells may also alleviate conditions that may possibly affect appearance and undermine your child’s self confidence.


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