Cancer is a deadly disease that is complicated, painful, and sometimes impossible to treat. Creating a successful drug for cancer treatment needs decades of research and millions of dollars. Anti-cancer drugs slow down the disease progression and extend the lifespan of the patients. However, they may cause side effects, such as hair loss and fatigue, reducing the quality of life. Hence, several institutes and pharmaceutical companies are still striving to find novel drugs with maximum efficacy and minimum adverse effects. To date, scientists have innovated several modalities and approaches to the treatment, including stem cell therapy.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are blood cell that do not carry out specialised functions but self-replicate to increase or maintain their population. These cell transform into structurally and functionally specialised cells, such as immune, hepatocytes, neurons, and kidney cell, during the development of the foetus in the womb. Further, stem cells continue to survive into adulthood in some. They include bone marrow and the brain.
How Does Stem Cell Cancer Treatment Work?
It involves infusing stem cell into the blood stream to treat cancer, especially blood cancers. Doctors recommend stem cell therapy or infusion after a rigorous course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which kills cancerous blood cell. The stem cells introduced into the body reach bone marrow, become a part of it, and restore the healthy population of blood cell in the bloodstream.
Stem cell donated by a person not related to the patient genetically are allogenic cells. On the other hand, autogenic donors are those who belong to the family of the patient. Experts opine that stem cell transplantation extracted from an allogeneic donor is more effective than allogeneic transplantation. It is because autologous cells and cancer cell exist with each other due to shared genetics. It increases the chances of cancer relapse.
Sources to Find Stem Cells in the Body
There are three types of stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells are those formed from the fertilised egg before the embryo formation.
- Germinal stem cells are the cells found in well-developed embryos with distinct germ layers, including ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.
- Somatic stem cells are the ones that continue to remain the same from the foetal stage to adults.
Since extraction of embryonic and germinal stem cell is risky to the foetus, somatic cells are the source of stem cell therapy. The most commonly used sources are umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood (blood in circulation). Umbilical cord blood is the best because the collection process is safer than bone marrow extraction, and the efficacy is high.+
Advantages of Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells
Cord blood is immunologically naive. It means that the immune cells in the blood have no or minimal exposure to disease-causing agents, such as viruses or allergens. Hence, they do not act against healthy cell in recipients after transplantation or infusion.
Stem cells from cord blood have a higher capacity for replicating than other cells and can differentiate into a broad range of blood cell. This property allows their applicability to treat different cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and myeloma.
Compared with stem cells from other sources, cord blood stem cells must meet less restrictive HLA-matching criteria. As immune cells in cord blood are naive, they do not react with Human Leucocyte Antigens (HLA) present in the recipient’s body cells. On the other hand, stem cell from another source, such as peripheral blood, have active immune cells, which recognise cell in the recipient’s body as foreign cells and destroy them. Hence, the success of cord blood stem cell transplantation is high.
How Does Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking Work?
Cord blood banks have skilled professionals trained to carry blood work, including collection, processing, storage, and preservation. They have facilities to extract stem cells from cord blood and preserve them using suitable techniques. The steps of stem cell banking are as follows.
- Blood Collection
Once a mother delivers her baby, doctors clamp the umbilical cord and cut it at a point close to the baby’s stomach. The remaining part dissociates and heals to form the belly button. Soon after the doctor cuts off the cord, a technician draws blood into a collecting bag from the veins of the umbilical cord.
- Blood Test
The tests conducted on cord blood samples include HLA typing, blood cell count, and screening for infection. The aim is to ensure the quality and safety of the stem cell extracted. HLA typing involves identifying the antigens expressed on the stem cells to determine the percentage of match between the HLA of the donor and that of the recipient.
Cord blood goes through a programmed process called apheresis, which identifies a specific type of cells and separates them. Along with stem cell, cord blood contains different types of cells, including mature immune cells. Apheresis involves identifying each cell and separating stem cells from other cells.
- Stem Cell Preservation
Once the bank has all-clear test results, they transfer the cells into sterile storage containers. In addition, the containers have preservatives that protect the cell from damage. These containers are maintained at minus 196 degree Celsius using liquid nitrogen. It is called cryopreservation, which arrests all the life activities in the cell by immobilising the contents in them.
- Stem Cell Banking Facility
Cord blood or stem cell banking is invaluable in treating diseases that have no approved medicine. It offers an opportunity to save someone’s life belonging to your family. Otherwise, you can donate it to someone fighting a life-threatening disease. Stem cell banking cost in India varies from bank to bank for a storage period of 21 years.
Cord blood banking opens opportunities to save a life from diseases such as cancer and bone marrow. Besides, it is the best source of stem cells due to its highest efficiency and broad applicability. Cryoviva Biotech offers stem cell banking using cutting-edge cryopreservation techniques at affordable prices. You can visit their website for more details and contact them for assistance.