Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming with all the planning for the new arrival as well as becoming educated on all the baby basics. One aspect parents should put on their list of things is to learn more about stem cell storage.


There are various myths about stem cell storage and many parents find the topic daunting. However, child and baby expos offer a vast amount of information all under one roof and is a great source of help to new parents. For the sixth year running, CryoSave and Salveo will be at this year’s Mama Magic, The Baby Expo, giving parents access to much needed information on stem cell storage.


What people don’t necessarily know is that just like organ transplants are used to treat or cure diseases, stem cells can be used in transplants for the same purpose. Sometimes your own stem cells can be used, and sometimes they will come from a donor.


A blood stem cell transplant is done to replace the damaged or destroyed blood stem cells with healthy ones. These blood stem cells are available from circulating blood, bone marrow and a new born baby’s umbilical cord blood.


For more than 25 years, it has been possible to store a baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells at birth for future medical use. Rather than just discarding the umbilical cord blood, parents worldwide are now choosing to store their baby’s stem cells – a service offered by CryoSave and Salveo Swiss Biotechnology – both jointly owned by JSE-listed Ecsponent Limited and International Biotechnology Group, Esperite.


Collecting stem cells from umbilical cord blood for private storage is quick, painless and non-invasive – posing no medical risk to mother or baby. These stem cells are preserved and can potentially be used for the baby, or his/her siblings or parents for future treatments for diseases such as Aplastic Anaemia, Sickle Cell Anaemia, Thalassemia, Congenital Neutropenia and severe immune-deficiency syndrome.


Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood to treat any of these diseases holds many benefits over other sources:


  • Like with any organ transplant, the donor and recipient’s tissue must match for a successful transplant. If they do not match, the recipient’s body will reject the donated organ or blood stem cells. The chances of finding a blood stem cell donor in South Africa are less than 1 in 100 000.


  • With umbilical cord blood, the patient will often only require a partial match, whereas with bone marrow they will need a 100% match. This reduced requirement for matching means that the likelihood of finding a donor is increased when choosing cord blood stem cells over that of bone marrow.


  • Additionally, umbilical cord blood stem cells are young and flexible, which means they have better regenerative abilities in comparison with stem cells from other sources – ‘a maximum of nine months old’ – which means that they can differentiate faster.


The first reliable report of transplant surgery took place in 1823. Since then, the first corneal transplant was performed in 1906, followed by the first successful living related kidney transplant in 1954. Dr Chris Barnard performed the first heart transplant in South Africa in 1967. Since then, countless heart and other transplants have been performed worldwide, including pancreas, liver and lungs.


Awareness about stem cell storage of a new born’s umbilical cord blood and tissue, and the potential life-saving applications, are growing among families and more parents are making use of this opportunity. This service is available at interest-free monthly instalments of less than R350 per month for 5 years, making it a worthwhile investment, especially considering that there is no public stem cell bank in Africa. Visitors to the event should also inquire about the Mama Magic show specials on offer.


A visit to the CryoSave Laboratory can be arranged, giving families the opportunity to inspect the storage facility and learn more about the life-saving abilities of stem cells.


About Ecsponent Biotech:

As one of the specialised divisions in the Ecsponent private equity stable, Ecsponent Biotech invests in products and services that promote the adoption of personalised and regenerative medicine among South Africans to improve their quality of life.

Additionally, Ecsponent Biotech focuses on the advancement of children’s health, by providing access to affordable, life-saving technologies to everyone who wants to make responsible and informed choices for their children. Investments in a number of international and local brands combine the technical excellence of leading biotech organisations with Ecsponent’ s local business expertise. These investments include CryoSave (Europe’s largest stem cell bank) and Salveo Swiss Biotechnology (Geneva-based leader in predictive medicine).