Grandparents buy babies ‘stem cells’
Parents and grandparents are buying babies the gift of life for Christmas. They are paying out for the kid’s vital umbilical cord stem cells to be stored through Christmas “gift certificates,” a medical technology company say.
Growing hype about the future potential of stem cell technology to treat a range of medical problems is driving demand for storage, with a number of companies offering to collect and keep stem cells in umbilical cord blood.
Stem cells are already used to treat types of leukaemia and anaemia but scientific advances mean they could soon be used to battle a range of potentially deadly conditions.
One such company – Smart Cells International, says it has had more than 1,000 inquiries and 50 purchases of “Christmas gift certificates” for stem cell collection from UK customers.
The blood from the baby’s umbilical cord is taken at the time of birth and the stem cells, the body’s master cells specially frozen so they can potentially be used if the child becomes ill in the future.
But the service does not come cheap, storing the cord blood for 25 years costs a total of £1,250.
Shamshad Ahmed, managing director of Smart Cells International, said, “The people who have contacted us, primarily current or imminent grandparents – have clearly put great thought into how they can give something very different, but very meaningful.
“Christmas gifts can be frivolous or luxurious, but whatever they buy, most people’s intention is to give something that is long-lasting.
“Stem cells may seem to be an offbeat or even bizarre gift, but, in effect, they are a long-lasting insurance policy that has a once-only purchase date.”
Mr Ahmed said that Smart Cells had now stored nearly 4,000 stem cell samples from babies’ umbilical cords collected immediately after birth.