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Chennai: Stem cell therapy remains in its infancy although scientists around the world are convinced that it is the next big frontier and could well lead to an era of regenerative medicine.

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved the use of stem cell therapy to treat prostrate cancer. And experts agree that stem cell therapy could have a part to play in the treatment of some forms of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. “We may not be able to cure cancer but using cell-based therapies we can extend a patient’s life," said Mayur Abhaya, managing director of Lifecell, which stores blood from the umbilical cord, rich in stem cells, at the time of birth.

That serves as an insurance of sorts for parents keen to protect their children from potentially life-threatening conditions for which cures involving stem calls may be discovered in the future.

Abhaya Kumar, a serial entrepreneur, set up the stem cell banking firm nine years ago in partnership with the US-based Cryo-Cell International, the world’s first private stem cell bank. Kumar’s other ventures include, Shasun Pharmaceuticals set up three decades ago, and animation company Frame Flow Llc that was started in 2000.

The firm’s big challenge remains low awareness and high cost. In Singapore, 250 out of every 1,000 parents choose to save cord blood; the proportion is 50 out of 1,000 in the US. In India, it’s two out of 1,000. Even as it seeks ways to improve awareness through ad campaigns and endorsements by Bollywood actors, Lifecell has also come up with an option for customers to pay in instalments: 3,500 for 12 months and an annual storage fee of 3,500.

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