Expectant parents now have the option of using umbilical cord banks to store the stem cells of their babies for a period of 21 years.

The stem cells will be kept in store till the parents or the child (upon reaching the age of 21) decide what it can be used for.

Health experts feel that this is advantageous for two reasons. First the stem cells can be used to cure a number of diseases and should the child fall prey to any disease he has a better chance of recovery.

They also feel that if the child is healthy, then he or she can think about donating the stem cells for furthering scientific research.

The procedure for enrollment at either of the banks - Life Cell in Chennai and Reliance Life in Mumbai - is simple.

An expectant mother can simply fill up a form and get herself enrolled at a cost of Rs 5000.

She is then given a kit containing a plastic bag for storing the umbilical cord blood. The processing fee is Rs 22,000 and the storage fee is Rs 2, 900 per year upto 21 years or more.

Over the last year, there has been a steady growth of interest in stem cell banking, Harshad Vaid, Operational Head, Life Cell, says, that When they opened in 2005, they had just 10 sets of parents who wanted to store umbilical cord blood. Now there are over 1500.

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