As I write this I’m the proud new mama of a 1 month old baby boy. I can’t quite understand where the month has gone and already I’m finding myself devastated at the fleeting tininess and the time we won’t get back. In the months leading up to his birth, my husband and I decided we’d like to have his umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cells stored and frozen, an insurance policy I suppose. We opted to have our baby’s stem cells stored with Netcells and the experience thus far has been a wonderful and enlightening one, which is why I wanted to write this. I’m also a total science and lab geek and spent a couple hours at their state of the art facility in Midrand learning more about the process in order to ensure we were making the right decision. I felt like I’d stepped into the future and it was incredible to witness the work that’s being done in South Africa.
Our experience having our baby’s stem cells collected
To give a little clarity on how the actual process works, I thought I’d share our experience. After we’d made the decision to proceed with stem cell storage with Netcells, a consultant met us at our home to answer any additional questions and to hand over our collection pack. The pack contains all of the documentation that needs to be completed and signed, additional reference material and the stem cell collection kit. Essentially all that needs to be done is for the pack to be taken along to the hospital and handed over to the OBGYN/midwife at delivery. As soon as baby is born, the OBGYN/midwife will collect the blood and cord tissue and store it within the pack according to Netcells’ specifications; they know exactly what to do and you literally just hand the box over to them. Dad/partner notifies Netcells immediately that the pack is ready for collection and a courier is dispatched to collect. Some blood is also drawn from the mother to ensure there’s no disease or potential contamination; mine was drawn a little later in the day by an Ampath representative who comes to your bedside. A few days later we received an e-mail confirming our storage results along with two certificates detailing all of the relevant storage information. And that’s it; a truly seamless experience end to end.
We also elected to have the newborn screening test done, FirstScreen, which is a simple heel prick to retrieve a few drops of blood. This blood is tested to pick up any metabolic abnormalities that can be treated easily if detected early on. This is done through Ampath who will come to your bedside to do baby’s blood collection. It’s quick and relatively painless; our little guy didn’t flinch.
I’ve gone into a little more detail around what stem cells are, why one should have them stored, pricing etc. below. Also, Netcells offer a nifty gift registry option, so do read on. If you’re curious about stem cell storage and want to find out more, Netcells offer lab open days on specific weekends. At the lab open days one can tour the facility and meet with staff to have questions answered; you’ll also receive a goodie bag (and it’s a goodie!), as well as a R1000 Baby City gift voucher upon the successful storage of your baby’s stem cells.
What are stem cells?
These are the original building blocks of life; they differentiate into all the specialised cells that make up the human body (skin, blood cells, muscle, bones, nerves etc)
Where are stem cells found?
Stem cells are abundant in the umbilical cord blood and cord tissue, which is usually discarded after birth. Stem cells can also be collected from bone marrow and fat tissue, however collecting them at birth is the least invasive method and completely pain-free for mom and baby.
Why store my baby’s stem cells?
So this is the critical bit.
Cord blood contains haematopoietic cells that are used to treat a number of blood related diseases. These are the cells that are routinely used in transplants to regenerate bone marrow, treating diseases like leukaemia, lymphoma, thalassaemia, Fanconi’s anaemia and sickle cell anaemia. Emerging therapies (currently in clinical trial phase) are using cord blood to treat brain injuries like cerebral palsy, strokes, autism, type 1 diabetes and even hearing loss.
Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells which are currently being tested in a variety of aesthetic and medical conditions. Some of the current trials include skin generation (in wound healing and anti-aging treatments), neurology (multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury), orthopaedics (rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis), sports injury, cardiology, auto-immune diseases and many more.
Who can use the stem cells?
Cord blood stem cells are 100% match for the baby from whom they’ve been collected and there is a 1 in 4 chance that they may be a match for a sibling.
What are the chances of you needing the stem cells?
Truth is the chance of your child contracting a life-threatening disease is not high and hopefully you’ll never need to use the collected stem cells. However, as medical science progresses and more diseases become treatable using stem cells, the likelihood of them being required during your lifetime will increase and that’s where this insurance policy kicks in.
What is FirstScreen newborn screening all about?
This test screens for disorders involving the metabolism of nutrients in the body, which lead to abnormalities in body chemistry. Our bodies need proteins, fats and carbohydrates to be broken down and absorbed from the foods that we eat so that we can build body tissues like muscle, bones, blood, nerves and brain tissue.
Enzymes are body chemicals that are involved in the process of breaking down the proteins, fats and carbohydrates into substances that the body can use. Most disorders of metabolism are due to a lack of a certain enzyme, leading to a problem with the breakdown of a certain nutrient. The body then cannot derive the benefit of this nutrient, which results in a disease or disorder of body chemistry.
In some disorders, there is a problem in the transport and usage of nutrients, which can also lead to the development of a disease or disorder in body chemistry. Newborn screening tests are designed to pick up these diseases and disorders before any harmful effects set in. As most affected children show no sign of the disease at birth, the tests have to be done within 48 – 72 hours of birth.
Why choose Netcells?
- International accreditation with the AABB (a first for cord blood banking in South Africa)
- International partnership with UK-based sister company Smart Cells, used for back-up processing and storage
- Discovery Health’s exclusive partner; receive up to 25% off the banking fee when you bank with Netcells
- Personal client service – Netcells has consultants countrywide who will come and meet with you to discuss the process and answer any questions you may have. We found this part of the process extremely helpful and professional
- Flexible storage options and payment plans
- Testing – extensive testing is performed on the collected blood and tissue to ensure viability
- Netcells is a part of the Next Biosciences group; combining medicine, science and technology through services from pre-conception to post-birth
Pricing depends on a number of factors and can easily be calculated on the Netcells website by clicking here. But to give you an example of banking both blood and cord tissue for one baby, storing for 20 years and paying over 60 months, with a Discovery discount of 10%, the monthly payment contribution would be R485.17. That’s cheaper than your average dinner for two these days, which could easily be sacrificed in lieu of this. You can also pay once off, or over 12 or 24 months. Discounts are also offered for banking additional children.
Netcells gift registry
I just love that Netcells offer the option of funding storage through a gift registry. In my opinion this if the best gift one can give a family and child. Whilst receiving toys and adorable tiny clothes is fun, the gift of life and health supersedes the rest. Click here if you’re interested in creating a Netcells gift registry for your baby, or are interested in finding out more.
Special offer from Netcells & Brandslut
If you register before 30th April 2018 and use the unique promotional code BRANDSLUT2018, you’ll qualify for a R1,000 Baby City gift voucher upon the successful storage of your baby’s stem cells.
I hope I’ve done this fantastic facility and service justice. If you have any questions, please holler. If I can’t answer I’ll be sure to get someone from the Netcells team to assist.
I seriously recommend checking out the facility at one of the lab open days, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your attendance at one of the following lab open days:
- Saturday 26 May 2018
- Saturday 4 August 2018
- Saturday 10 November 2018