Stem cell banking is a form of medical insurance.
When your baby is born, their umbilical cord blood and tissue is saved so that it can be used in the future, potentially, to help in the treatment of a number of blood or immune disorders - should your child ever need it.
Like all insurance, you hope you never have to use it.
But if you do, you know that you have given your child the instant possibility of treatment, rather than adding their name to a donor waiting list.
We like to think of stem cells as the original building blocks of life.
They are the cells that make up the embryo and develop into different cell types in your body.
Saving them at birth is easy, painless and a lot less invasive than harvesting stem cells later in life. These stem cells are usually discarded as medical waste, which means that collecting them does not come with any moral, ethical or religious concerns. Scientists believe that treatment results are better when you use stem cells collected at birth because they are at the very beginning of their life span and do not show any age-related changes.
Your baby’s umbilical cord blood is high in blood-forming stem cells, which can be used to help treat over 80 blood-related diseases.
These stem cells are used in the regeneration of bone marrow as they can replace diseased or damaged cells with healthy new cells. They make it possible to rebuild a person’s blood and immune system.
The umbilical cord is cut and clamped
The cord blood is collected by your Gynaecologist, Doctor or Midwife immediately after the birth of your baby, however you choose to give birth (vaginal birth or Caesarean section).
A needle is inserted into the umbilical cord vein and the blood is collected into a sterile bag.
The collection of the cord blood is quick, safe and painless for both mother and baby.
100 - 150ml of cord blood needs to be collected for it to be successfully stored.
If your Gynaecologist, Doctor or Midwife is not familiar with the process, we are happy to send them a video that takes them through the process in detail.
Your baby’s umbilical cord tissue contains the type of stem cells which form the connective tissues in our bodies, such as skin, bone, muscle, cartilage, nerve and fat. These stem cells hold considerable potential in treating a wide variety of medical and aesthetic conditions, such as treating potential in treating burns or wounds that are battling to heal. They are currently being used in a number of clinical trials.
While these cells are found in most of our tissues or organs, they can be difficult to harvest. Collecting them at birth is best because:The cells are "young" and have better regenerative potential.Cord tissue is easily collected with no pain or discomfort to you or your child.
Cord tissue is collected by your Gynaecologist, Doctor or Midwife immediately after the birth of your baby.
After the cord blood has been collected, and after the placenta has been delivered, a 10 - 15cm piece of the umbilical cord is cut and cleaned.
The cord tissue is then placed into the collection tube and placed in the silver foil bag, along with the cord blood.
Register on-line via the easy-to-use on-line registration platform and make payment for the registration fee.
Kit is delivered
We will deliver a Collection Kit to you and one of our client services team members will take you through the process to ensure you are properly informed.
Take kit to hospital
You take the Collection Kit with you to the hospital for your Gynae/Midwife to do the collection.
Draw Maternal Bloods
Before the birth of your baby, ensure a nurse had come to draw your maternal bloods.
Doctor does collections
At the birth your Gynae/Midwife will do the collection (there are collection protocols in the collection kit).
Package the kit
Ensure that everything has been packaged correctly and documents have been completed.
Contact the Netcells Client Services Team to arrange for the collection kit to be collected and brought to the lab for processing.
Sample is processed
The stem cells are processed in our internationally accredited laboratory.
Stem cells are stored
Cryogenically frozen and stored in the vapour phase of liquid nitrogen in state-of-the-art storage tanks.
Certificate is sent
You will receive an email with your results certificate. Additionally, a storage certificate will be sent once full payment has been received.
At Netcells, there are no hidden fees- your total price includes the Registration Fee, Processing Fee and Storage. With a variety of storage options and payment plans available, our pricing is tailored to suit your needs.
Covers the kit and collection of the stem cells. It is paid upfront and is non-refundable.
Once the stem cells arrive out our laboratory, they need to be extracted, tested, and prepared for storage. Netcells uses a state-of-the-art processing technology that has proven to yield stem cells that have the greatest potential for stem cell engraftmentment.1
Storage is at the Netcells Internationally Accredited Laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa OR at the Smart Cells Laboratory in the United Kingdom. Storage period options include 10 or 20 years (Smart Cells is 25 years).
Private Stem Cell Banking preserves the umbilical cord stem cells collected at birth exclusively for your child or family for potential life-saving treatments to help safeguard their future health.
When you store with the Community Bank, the umbilical cord stem cells are preserved for your family, and they are listed on the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR). This makes the stem cells available to others for lifesaving transplants.
Visit the South African Bone Marrow Registry website for more information.
What does it mean when a sample is listed on the SABMR?
When the stem cells are stored they will be tissue typed. This information is kept with the SABMR, which is used to determine if the stem cells are a match to a recipient in need. The stored stem cells will be used on a first come first serve basis. If your child / someone in your family requires the stem cells first, they will have full access to them. However, if the stem cells are found to be a match to someone else in need of a lifesaving transplant, the cells will be used by them. The parents will be informed that there is a match and will sign the consent for the stem cells to be given over, and Next Biosciences will then refund them the full amount paid to bank their baby’s sample with the Community Bank.
Community Banking entry criteria:
These are diseases for which transplants using blood-forming stem cells are considered a standard treatment.
In our bodies, bone marrow is the source of all blood cells. Our blood cells constantly need to be replaced with new cells as they age. How? Through blood- forming stem cells. The same kind that are found in the umbilical cord blood.
If your bone marrow is damaged by disease (like blood cancer) or medication (like chemotherapy), it can be fatal. As part of the treatment, blood-forming stem cells need to be replaced through a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
One of the best non-invasive sources of stem cells for a transplant is cord blood.
Stem cell transplants are the standard treatment for over 80 blood-related diseases.
(i.e. acute and chronic)
(i.e. Refractory Anaemia)
(i.e. Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma)
(i.e. Sickle Cell and Fanconi Anaemia)
Inherited Platelet Abnormalities
(i.e. Congenital Throma)
Inherited Immune System Disorders
(i.e. Lysosomal Storage and Leukodystrophy Disorders)
Cancers in bone marrow
(i.e. Multiple Myeloma)
(i.e. Neuroblastoma, Medulloblastoma and Retinoblastoma)
A clinical trial is a study in human patients for an emerging therapy that has not been adopted as standard therapy. Once the findings are complete, it is decided whether or not the new treatment is safe and effective enough to become licensed and a standard medical practice.
The stem cells are a perfect match for the baby that they were collected for. There is also a 25% chance that they will be a match for a sibling. As the stem cells belong to the family, they are stored exclusively for their use.
If the blood disorder is hereditary, the cord blood stem cells could not be used for treatment as the disease is found in the stem cells as well. In these situations, you would look to use a sibling’s stem cells, should they be a tissue match.
There can be instances in which the cord blood cannot be collected, which can occur if there are any difficulties with the labour in which your gynae/midwife needs to prioritise the health and safety of mom and/or the baby over collecting stem cells. Should this happen, you will be refunded the processing and storage fees that you have paid.
Situations in labour / birth that can cause low volume or no collection:
There are eligibility criteria for the community bank. This is because the South African Bone Marrow Registry needs to ensure that the cord blood sample is not potentially affected by anything which may be transferred over to a recipient in need during a stem cell transplant.
We need to look at the biological mother and fathers’ and both their families medical history to determine your risk for passing on a blood transmissible disease or an inherited blood, autoimmune, metabolic or neurological disorder to your child which may affect their cord blood
We will screen the mother for any blood transmissible viruses she could have passed on to her child during pregnancy.
We recommend that cord blood/ cord tissue is banked separately for each child in the case of twins or triplets, however individual cases can be discussed with our Medical Director.
Non-identical twins and non-identical triplets are conceived from different eggs and sperm and are no more alike than siblings born at separate times. The chance of a tissue type (HLA match) between siblings is 25%. In these cases, it is advised to store for each baby as their tissue types are different. Having two units stored increases the likelihood of a useful match between family members and it is possible to combine smaller units should siblings be a match to ensure an adequate stem cell yield for transplantation if ever needed.
For identical twins or rarely identical triplets the fertilized egg divides at an early stage of development and the babies will have the same genetic information. However even in these cases, minor genetic changes may occur after conception and during foetal development. While identical twins are genetically identical, small genetic differences may exist at varying stages of development, causing a low but present risk of differences in disease profiles. For example, one twin may develop leukaemia or diabetes and the other does not.
However, if you request only one collection for cord blood and tissue for identical twins, it is possible to do so after discussing this with our Medical Director. Each case should be discussed with the Medical Director and your obstetrician and the implications of this explained to them. The obstetrician must be sure that this is a case of identical twins for this to be considered.
Either a single collection can be done from one twin with the option to use the unit for the other twin should the need arise OR cord blood can be collected from each umbilical cord (in the case of a single placenta) and combined in one bag. This will lead to a situation of two genetically identical donors for a single unit and hence we recommend that in these cases the unit should be used for syngeneic transplant (i.e. a stem cell transplant only between the identical twins) and possibly not for other siblings. However, should one baby develop a genetic disorder requiring a transplant and the blood is combined, the transplant doctor may decide not to use the cord blood stem cells as they may contain the same genetic problem.
Cord tissue does not require as stringent HLA matching as cord blood so it is possible to only store one umbilical cord tissue unit for both babies.
Please note that collections for any multiple pregnancy has a higher risk of a lower volume with lower cell counts. This is because multiple pregnancies can often be premature, with smaller babies with lower birth weights and smaller placentas. In the case of emergencies where the mother’s health or that is of the babies is of utmost importance, the doctor may decide to abandon the cord blood collection procedure and safely deliver the babies.
Ideally, your child or their sibling’s stem cells will never be needed and should be regarded as an extra form of medical insurance.
Studies in the USA have been done to calculate a lifetime probability (age 0-70) that a person will undergo a stem cell transplant:
1 in 435 people may receive their own stem cells
1 in 400 people will receive someone else’s cells
The total combined number of stem cell transplants is 1 in 217 people.
As more clinical uses become evident, these statistics are likely to increase the likelihood of use particularly for more commonly occurring medical illnesses.
Next Biosciences will always refund the portion of the fee relating to the service that wasn’t utilized. Additionally, Next Biosciences takes the risk on processing, so if for whatever reason there are not enough stem cells for storage and you don’t store, then you will refund the banking and storage fees.
Cord blood stored with the private bank belongs to that family – the parents are the guardians of the cord blood until the child is 18 years old. They are entitled to store the cord blood for however long they like, and they are entitled to donate it to whoever they like. If it is found that a friend’s child needs a stem cell transplant and that their child’s stem cells are a match, they are allowed to donate the stored stem cells if they wish. They are not allowed to receive remuneration for the donation. South Africa has laws prohibiting the sales of organs, blood etc.
Before releasing stem cells, Netcells will insist on documentation from the transplanting doctor. If this is found to be legitimate and the stem cells are going to a registered doctor/ hospital/ institution, we will not have a problem releasing them to the transplanting clinic.
The cord blood stem cells are ready for use. The administering doctor will contact us, provide the relevant documentation and we will co-ordinate the transport of the cells to them.
Cord tissue stem cells will need to be cultured to whatever use they are needed for e.g. bone regeneration or skin regeneration etc. Those protocols are still in development and another laboratory who specialise in this may need to be used. But that is all to be assessed in the future.
Cord blood – there are no retrieval costs. The stem cells are ready to be used.
Cord tissue – the cells need to be extracted from the tissue and cultured. The cells may then need to be manipulated further depending on the treatment required. There will be a charge for this process, but it is unknown as treatments have not been developed yet.
Cost of therapy – cord blood transplantation for bone marrow regeneration is generally covered by medical aid.
Finding a match – through the bone marrow registry is approx. R250 000.
Cost of buying the stem cells from overseas – anywhere between R300000 and R1million.
Netcells has released 3 stem cells units.
We released our first cord blood unit in March 2015 to treat an eight-month-old baby boy at Duke University in the USA.
We released our second cord blood unit in June 2016 to treat a 3-year-old boy with cerebral palsy at Duke University.
We have had a few siblings who required stem cell transplants but these were unfortunately not a match. Our sister company Smart Cells in the UK has already released 21 cord blood units for the treatment for cerebral palsy, thalassaemia, leukaemia, brain injury, severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, sickle cell anaemia and encephalitis.
This depends on the number of stem cells stored in each individual unit and the size of the person who requires the transplant. The optimal dose is 10 -20 million nucleated (CD45) cells per kilogram of body weight. The cell counts are different for every collection and depend on the volume of blood collected as well as other factors in pregnancy. Your baby’s cell counts will be reported to you on your storage certificate.
The average number of stem cells collected from an average volume of 100 ml can usually treat up to a 50kg person, but this varies. Some of the units contain large numbers of cells which would be enough to treat adults with a single unit and others are much smaller and are suitable for smaller children. In larger adults, often two matched units can be combined (either from a sibling or an unrelated donor).
Companies are developing techniques to expand (grow more) stem cells in a laboratory environment, and we hope this will become a reality soon.
It must be noted that lower stem cell counts are currently being used in clinical trials for cerebral palsy and brain injury, as these recipients are often small, low birth weight babies and children.