By Madhu Srivastava
Our health scenario has undergone drastic changes over the past few decades. Is it not fair to say that given today's lifestyles, finding someone who is completely fit and healthy is quite rare?
In an attempt to take precautions, people are doing their best such as exercising, controlling their diet, taking health supplements, undergoing periodic health check-ups and what not. However, these are only precautionary or preventive measures. How can you protect yourself or your family in the worst case of being diagnosed by a disorder that could take you by surprise?
The good news is that while more new diseases are being discovered, medical science is also growing at a matching pace with treatment solutions for such conditions. Here comes the role of stem cells. Stem cell treatment has been found to be a solution for many ailments that are not treatable by conventional methods of surgery or medication. Diseases such as leukemia ans thalassemia can now be treated by stem cells with a hope of survival, which was not possible even a decade or so ago.
As stem cell medicine keeps advancing with more conditions being researched, the future sounds quite promising as more and more disorders that were once considered as permanent or terminal will soon become treatable.
But, the question is, where does one find these stem cells? Well, the answer is, within you; in your bone marrow.
Unfortunately in more than 80 per cent of these disorders, your own stem cells cannot be used and you would need to seek them from someone else. Here comes the challenge of finding a matching donor and someone who is willing to donate his stem cells. Alternatively, you can source stem cells from a public bank which preserves umbilical cord stem cells of donors. Here, in addition to the rarity of finding a matching stem cell of Indian ethnicity, the problem gets compounded with the need of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for stem cell treatment. Seven out of 10 patients who require a matching stem cell do not find a match in their family.
Can this scenario change? Is there a hope for treating such dreaded conditions? The answer is yes. If you are expecting a baby in your family, then you are blessed.
We say a child is a blessing from God, which is true in real terms. While as parents we bless our children, now the baby can bless us to stay protected against such medical conditions.
The baby's umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells. These can be collected and preserved at the time of birth for future use so that it can come to the rescue when required. With the new concept of community stem cell banking by one of the leading stem cell banks in the country which preserves a baby's stem cells by making him/her a member of the community of parents who have also preserved their baby's stem cells. The stem cell of all the babies within the community forms a collective pool to be accessed by all members.
Hence, at any given time, one can access donor stem cells from this collective pool for treatment, protecting not just your baby but your family too from such ailments. There is only the initial cost of preserving your baby's stem cells which is much lower than sourcing stem cells from a public stem cell bank. More importantly, the probability of finding a match of Indian ethnicity is higher and stem cells are readily available for treatment when required.
If you are worried about the uncertainties over the health of your family, you can now rest assured that your baby's birth will now bless your family with the protection of good health.
(Madhu Srivastava, is Senior Consultant and HOD of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Fortis Hospital, Noida. The views expressed are personal.)