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Home News and Update Year 2011 Monthly 'Curse' Turns Boon: Menstrual Blood Gives Cancer Patients New Hope

Monthly 'Curse' Turns Boon: Menstrual Blood Gives Cancer Patients New Hope

DNA India
15 March 2011
By Shakti Salgaokar
Mumbai, India

"I am sitting here only because of stem–cell therapy," said the gorgeous Lisa Ray, smiling. Her hair is still short, but it has grown in lively curls around her radiant face. She smiled again. "It may sound like an exaggeration, but if it wasn’t for stem cells, I wouldn’t be here."

It is hard to believe that Ray was fighting cancer just a few months ago. "I feel healthier than I have ever felt before!" she announced. The Canada–born model and actress was in Mumbai to launch a revolutionary stem–cell banking system specially for women.

Banking stem cells is not a new idea. For the past few years, stem cells are being stored from newborn babies' umbilical cords. But LifeCell’s new technology now helps women store stem cells collected from their own menstrual blood.

"What was considered a monthly curse will soon become a boon," said Mayur Abhaya, executive director, LifeCell international. "The uterine lining and excess blood and tissues that the body discards during menstruation are rich sources of mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells have the ability to differentiate into almost all types of cells in the human body.

"The amount of tissue regeneration that we see during women’s periods can only be associated with stem cells. And their properties make them the most potent stem cells that can be acquired from an adult source."

LifeCell’s Femme service enables women to collect, process, store and retrieve the stem cells. While the service was launched in the US in 2007, this is the first time it has come to India. Ray, who is travelling across India to create awareness about stem cells, clapped enthusiastically as the first collection kit was unveiled.

"There is no doubt that stem cells are the next big leap in medical sciences," said the Bengali–Polish actress. "In Canada, we just celebrated 50 years of stem–cell research." Ray’s condition was a rare one, but doctors were able to cure it using stem cells extracted from her own blood.

"It’s a routine process, but it is also very invasive," she said. Ray has now stored her stem cells though she hopes she won’t have to use them again.

"It is definitely easier on your body if you store stem cells in advance," said Dr Anita Soni, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, as she received the first kit from Ray. "These cells can be used to cure ailments like arthritis and blood cancers and to regenerate organs."

Ray interacted with bloggers at the event. "I call myself a cancer graduate, not a survivor. Throughout the treatment, blogging helped me understand the disease better and I received immense support from people all over the world. I understand the power of this medium and I want bloggers to help people educate themselves about stem cell therapy."

The actress was declared free of cancer around December 25, 2010, after stem–cell therapy was used to replace her bone marrow.

The natural question is how much does it cost to acquire and store stem cells? With LifeCell Femme it could cost anywhere from Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 depending on the storage time. The company also has an EMI option to pay for the acquisition and storage over a period of time.

"Think of it as an insurance policy that you take out," said Dr Soni. The regenerative power of the menstrual blood goes down with age and it is best to store MSCs as early as possible and before the age of 35, according to experts.

With India facing a 300% increase in cancer over the next decade, this could be a good investment by women towards their own health.

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