New Delhi: Menstrual blood has long been discarded as unsanitary and waste, but now stem cells from this very source can be stored and used for treating many ailments. About 1,000 customers have signed up for menstrual blood stem cell banking since it was launched in India in March.
Started by Chennai-based LifeCell under the name LifeCell Femme, menstrual blood stem cell banking provides women with the unique opportunity to collect and preserve vital stem cells that can be harvested from the body`s menstrual blood. The menstrual stem cells are unique because they have many properties and characteristics similar to both bone marrow and embryonic stem cells.
"The stem cells multiply rapidly and can differentiate into many other types of stem cells such as neural, cardiac, bone, fat, cartilage and possibly others, demonstrating great promise for future use in clinical regenerative medical therapies," Mayur Abhaya, executive director, LifeCell International, told IANS.
Preliminary research suggests that in addition to the potential use by the donor, these stem cells may possibly be used as well to benefit other family members who are genetically related to the donor, such as perhaps a parent, sibling or child.
Menstrual stem cell can be used for treating several ailments -- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, multiple-sclerosis, cardiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, Parkinson`s disease, spinal cord injury, acute lung injury and renal failure.
Speaking about the importance of menstrual blood, Abhaya said: "The menstrual blood is a valuable resource of stem cells. By preserving your own menstrual blood stem cells, you can secure your life against such future ailments."
Launched in March this year, LifeCell has already got 1,000 customers, including gynaecologists, signing up for the service.
"The initial response has been very encouraging to us and LifeCell Femme has gained large acceptance. Most of our customers are from the corporate world, educated and well- informed women," he said.
The collection process for menstrual blood is painless and hassle free. The collection can be done at the privacy and convenience of home, using a `Menstrual Cup` - a conical shaped medical grade silicon cup which can collect up to 30 ml of menstrual blood.
"The collected menstrual blood will be home-picked by the LifeCell staff and transported to a Chennai-based stem cell bank where stem cells will retrieve and store for further use," he said.
The cost of preservation starts at Rs.29,900 for preserving the menstrual blood stem cells and an annual storage fee of Rs.1,500 per year while the life-time storage plan (up to the age of 60) is available at a one-time payment of Rs.49,900.
This one-time payment can also be paid with EMI facility of just Rs.4,200 per month payable for 12 months for preserving stem cells up to the age of 60.
Abhaya says it is better to store the menstrual blood stem cell at a younger age as the fitness of the menstrual blood stem cells are much better when they are collected at a younger age.
"The potency of stem cells is the capacity of these stem cells to multiply rapidly to produce enough quanta of stem cells for therapy purpose and at a very short time. The younger the age, the more the potential of cells to replicate and multiply faster," he added.
Explaining the benefits of menstrual stem cell over bone marrow cells, Abhaya told IANS: "It is a resource kept ready - when you bank your menstrual blood stem cells, you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that your body`s own stem cells are available - should the need ever arise. "
Menstrual blood is easy to retrieve and is readily available whenever it is needed, unlike bone marrow, for example, where it is harder to find a donor matching your type. It is a life-saving alternative to bone marrow transplants.