By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India is all set to become the largest collector of
umbilical cord blood in the world thanks to its vast genetic diversity
and high number of births every year.
Scientists project cord blood as the natural source of future medical
treatment for genetic and rare diseases. Since India records around
three crore births every year, tapping cord blood is quite easier.
Already the country has about a dozen cord blood banks including three
in the public sector, which provide cord blood to even unrelated
people and non-donors.
According to S Jayesh of the Foundation for Research in Genetics and
Endocrinology, "India’s booming birth rate and genetic diversity will
help it emerge as the largest collector of umbilical cord blood in the
world". The country has already around 50,000 samples.
He said about 70 per cent of patients of Indian origin, who require
bone marrow transplantation, do not find a match within their own
family. Hence, unrelated umbilical cord blood is a widely accepted
source of progenitors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
"However, to date the total number of umbilical cord blood transplants
performed in India has been very low mainly due to high cost and
limited number of such units," he added. The country needs as many as
30,000 units as against the present dozen or so. While the general
public has access to the public sector cord blood banks, the private
cord blood banks provide service to the donors.
Though the demand for cord blood has been on the rise, there are no
ethical guidelines to deal with cases of negligence in future. Also
accreditation of these units has largely been voluntary and only 20
per cent of the existing units in the country are affiliated to
internationally renowned bodies. The country does not have a public
policy on the functioning of these unit.