A two billion dollar market worldwide, cord blood banking is fast coming up in India, with many big players foraying into collection, isolation and storage technologies for cord blood stem cells.

Cord blood is generally discarded after child birth, but it is a new borns biological insurance against disease.

India’s first cord blood stem-cell bank, LifeCell, was launched two years back. Reliance Life Sciences too has entered into the field. Cryobanks recently announced setting up seven banks across the country.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells have already been effectively used in the treatment of sickle cell, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, other forms of cancer, life threatening anaemia, and auto-immune diseases.

Globally over 7000 cases of Cord Blood Stem Cell transplants have been reported and the list of diseases treatable by umbilical cord stem cells continues to grow.

In recent years, cord blood transplants (CBTs) have become widely recognized as a safe, effective, and in many ways preferable, alternative to bone marrow transplant (BMT), according to Dr Naresh Trehan, well-known cardiologist.

In the very near future, these cells could be used to regenerate heart muscles and impact neurological disease treatment, says Dr Trehan.

At present stem cell therapy is being done in India on a very low scale. The need of the hour is to have an effective stem cell transplant programme, says Dr Chaturvedi. With ethnic diversity and massive population base, India can be a key centre for cord blood stem cell storage in the world, she says.

Cord Blood stem cell transplant is being seen as the future of medicine the world over. Last year President Bush signed into law a bill to underwrite stem cell research that does not harm donors, he says.

Cord blood stem cells are not just for the baby. It’s really an investment for the whole family. Virtually half of siblings, and many in immediate family, may find a suitable match in the baby’s stem cells, says Dr Chaturvedi.

Link [www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/008200611070311.htm]