Bangalore: India achieves a major milestone in the field of stem cell transplants. Community Cord Blood Banking, a unique and innovative stem cell banking initiative that was introduced by LifeCell in 2017, helped save a seven-year-old girl suffering from aplastic anaemia – a rare and serious blood disorder when all other possible treatments failed.
A team of senior doctors from LOTUS Institute of Haematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, successfully conducted a double unit cord blood transplant to save the life of the child from Nashik in Maharashtra. This transplant was, in particular, challenging because there were no appropriate bone marrow donors and the cost of retrieval of matching units from public cord blood banks would have been quite high. As members of LifeCell Community Bank, the parents placed a matching request for two cord blood units after the child’s sibling was found to be only a 50% (4/8) match. Two high-quality matches (⅞) were found in the registry, which fulfilled the requirement for Umbilical Cord Blood (UCB) transplantation. Importantly, the parents could withdraw these matched units at no additional expense, which otherwise would cost not less than Rs. 45,00,000/unit, according to a 2011 study analysing the cost of UCB transplantation in India.
Elaborating on this milestone, Mr. Mayur Abhaya, MD, LifeCell International said, “The purpose of Community Cord Blood Banking is to ensure easy and rapid access to stem cells for every Indian without the hurdles of public and private banking models. While stem cells from the umbilical cord blood can be procured from global public banks, the probability of finding a match for a patient of Indian origin is less than 10% because of the low inventory of available units plus the big issue of donor dropouts. Luckily, since the family was a part of LifeCell’s community banking program, they could gain quick, free access to the huge inventory of over 50,000 qualified and consented units available at LifeCell which provides greater than 97% probability of finding a match.”
In the majority of the blood-related disorders treatable by transplants, patients’ own stem cells are not suitable. Hence, the best donor is a close family member, usually a sibling. However, in this particular case, there was only a 50% match with the sibling and that’s why a high-quality match from an unrelated donor was crucial for a successful transplant. While a regular stem cell transplant requires a dose of 25 million cells per kg of patient weight, for aplastic anaemia the recommended minimum dose is 40 million cells per kg and that’s not easy to find. The community banking model made it possible and the child received a timely transplant with an encouraging prognosis. Just 18 days after the transplant, white blood cells completely engrafted, and platelets and red blood cell production also increased drastically.
Calling it a real social service by LifeCell, Dr. Pritesh Junagade, Director of LOTUS Hospital said, that he was pleasantly surprised that the retrieval process for two cord blood units was convenient and at no additional cost to the patient as compared to other banking models. He is now a supporter of LifeCell’s community banking and would welcome the opportunity to further advance this initiative.
Speaking about the transplant, Mr Tasneem Bohari, “It was two years ago that my daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia. At the time of diagnosis, the doctors had suggested she would need a stem cell transplant eventually and it would be the best possible treatment in the future. We made several research and enquiry about which stem cell bank to opt for as we were expecting our second baby. It was during this time, our friends and relatives had suggested LifeCell and we consulted our doctor as well who also said we could go ahead and preserve our baby’s stem cell with LifeCell. At the time of preservation, we didn’t have much idea on community stem cell banking and its benefits but today we are happy to associate with LifeCell who have helped my daughter lead a quality life through cord blood transplant”.
Commenting on the Community Cord Blood Bank’s historical moment, Mr. Ishaan Khanna, CEO – Biobank and Diagnostics, LifeCell International Pvt. Ltd. said, “Community Cord Blood Banking is a visionary initiative of our MD, Mr. Mayur Abhaya that will increase the scope of stem cell transplants to treat life-threatening diseases for Indians worldwide. I am pleased to say that our promise to ensure world-class preventive healthcare is kept today and the future holds greater potential for more such innovative stem-cell-based therapeutic solutions. This development is indeed very encouraging for the medical community and every Indian.”
Community Cord Blood Banking is a unique initiative of LifeCell, which allows sharing of preserved umbilical cord stem cells from a common pool amongst the members of the community. The model offers greater and easier access to donor stem cells, unlimited retrievals at the cost of one enrolment, and a higher probability for finding a close match for potentially life-saving treatments. Community banking, thus, ensures complete protection to the child, siblings, parents, and maternal & paternal grandparents from more than 80 disorders treatable by stem cells.