The burden of Thalassemia in India is that 10,000 infants are born every year with no effective screening of mothers in place.
The public cord blood banking which has so far collected 10, 000 samples is looking at at a target of 50,000 over the next 5-10 years. The bank gets 2-3 requests every day for cord blood from all over the world. Dr Saranya emphasizes that though private blood banking is slowly gaining ground it is public cord blood banking which offers more scope for cure to people at large. Private blood banking is also popular as people are aware of the huge potential of cord blood in the future. But at the same time they fail to realize it may not be the answer for a disease that has a genetic basis.
The bank accepts cord blood only from institutions where the obstetricians are on board and the antenatal history of the mother is available in detail. The bank is keen to ensure ethinic diversity and has collection centres all over India barring a few states that are not easily accessible. Dr. Saranya stresses that ethnic diversity is very important for collection as most western centres have a Caucasian base whilch has less chance of a HLA match than the 1:2 chance offered by a local pool match. (HLA refers to the antigen in cells which are involved in rejection of the cells when transplanted into another individual) While a paediatric patient requires one unit, an adult may require 2 or an expanded unit. Expanded unit refers to technology to make stem cells multiply in vitro which is still in its infancy.
Doctors ( especially obstetricians) should consider cord blood banking early in their career and offer it in their institutions. “Jeevan” is willing to help in the training of personnel in collection of cord blood which is often wasted in many hospitals.
Dr. Saranya Narayan also emphasizes that rather than having many public cord blood banks, it is effective to have more collection centres, as processing of cord blood is expensive as its storage. Moreover many samples get rejected as they may not comply to set standards for cord blood.
“Save cord blood “ is a message she wishes to spread.