Stem cell research in Dubai
Between pre-natal classes, check ups and cravings for pickles dipped in Nutella, put some thought into storing your baby’s stem cells
When I was expecting my first child, I was baffled by the choices my hormonally charged brain was expected to process. Did I want to know the sex of my baby? Would my husband be allowed at the delivery? And really vital ones like should I do pre-natal yoga classes or eat a third doughnut? Which hospital would give me the most TV channels? Thankfully, there was one choice I found easy to make, and that was to store my son’s cord blood stem cells. At the time, there was only one firm offering the service – and it seemed expensive. But the prospect of providing my baby with an exact match stem cell transplant should he need it in later in life, was – to me anyway – a cost worth taking on the chin.
Why did I decide to store my child’s stem cells? Because more than 70 different diseases can be cured using stem cell transplants, which are now commonly used in place of a bone marrow transplant. The procedure provides patients with an exact match, which not only restores their immune systems after cancer treatments, but can also repair damaged tissues. On top of that, experimental treatments using mesenchymal stem cells (those useful in regenerative medicine) include repairing brain damage in children with cerebral palsy, treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. There are also successes in laboratory tissue re-growth. These techniques could eventually be used to cure heart disease, diabetes and even spinal cord injuries. Today, Dubai’s parents-to-be have more choices of cord blood providers than ever before. So armed with a dictionary of medical terms, we attempt to sift through the options.
What to look for in a package Red blood cell depleted stem cells vs whole cord blood: The general medical consensus is that you should store the red blood cell depleted stem cells rather than the whole cord blood. Red blood cells die during the freezing process and extra chemicals must be added to the larger volume of blood to preserve the sample. Some transplant centres are reluctant to accept whole blood for transplants as medical complications can arise from their use. Types of tests: Face it, you will be bamboozled by jargon in this procedure, but basically you need to know how many white cells are in the blood (total nucleated cell count), how many are alive (viability test) and the number of hematopoeitic stem cells (CD34+ count). Anything above CD34+750,000 is considered a good collection of stem cells. This is essential information, so make sure it’s part of your package.
One collection, one transplant: It is extremely unlikely that even a large sample of cord blood will contain enough stem cells for more than one transplant. Don’t listen to providers who tell you otherwise.
Storage location: You may never use the stem cells, but it makes sense to store it in a facility that is accessible to you, both now and in the future.
Time Out Dubai,