Stem Cells hold great promise for human therapy

Stem cells

My cousin is in the last month of her pregnancy, which means the baby could arrive at any time. And her doctor recommends of banking baby’s umbilical cord blood at birth. It is the stem cell preservation doctor is talking about.

The last few weeks of pregnancy could be very tough but are also special. You always want to give best possible safeguards to your child to lead a healthy and happy life. Stem cell storage could be the first step to ensure it.

It is not the decision you should take in last few minutes. We must be aware of the process and it’s promising benefits in future. At the end of the text, you will understand the importance of stem cells and it’s preservation.

Umbilical Cord Blood

Umbilical Cord is nothing but a nine month’s bond of mother with her baby. It connects a baby in the womb to its mother. Cut the umbilical cord and it’s a new life – new beginning.

Umbilical cord carries oxygen and other essential nutrients from the mother to the baby. Also, it helps to carry degenerated blood and waste from your baby back to placenta of mother.

In the moments after your baby born, doctor cuts the umbilical cord. Usually, this umbilical cord is thrown away after birth. The blood left over in the umbilical cord has stem cells in it. This blood can be collected and stored in cord blood banks for future significance.

Stem Cells

Each of the body organ is made up of a group of similar cells. These cells work to perform different tasks including growth, development, and maintenance of our body. The basic cells which give rise to all of the different cells in an organ are called as stem cells.

Stem cells are special cells that have potential to develop into many different cell types; from bone marrow cells, muscle cells to brain cells. The stem cells differ from other kind of cells in the body in some unique characteristics like;

  • The stem cells have the potential to either remain as a stem cell or transform into another type of cell.
  • They are capable of dividing and renewing themselves and can give rise to specialised (Differentiated) cell types. They can proliferate and replicate many times for longer periods.
  • They also have the ability to repair damaged tissues. When used in regenerative medicine, stem cells help to replace cells that been damaged in some way.
Image result for stem cells

Stem cells are categorised in two forms; embryonic cells and adult cells. Embryonic stem cells come from unused embryo resulting from an in-vitro fertilisation procedure in labs. These cells can be grown into more than one type of cell.

Whereas, adult cells are the cells which can be taken from matured tissues like brain, skin, and bone marrow. These cells can be grown to same type of cells. After 2006, adult cells can also be developed as like embryonic cells in the laboratory. Adult cells are not versatile and durable in nature.

Regenerative medicine

We are hearing for so long about stem cell based therapies. Stem cells offer a great promise for newer medical treatments.

Nowadays, most of the doctors encouraging parents to store the umbilical cord blood. Off course!! the choice is yours. Doing so, is completely safe for both child and mother. This cord blood is rich in stem cells.

  • The blood in umbilical cord is collected.
  • It is then processed; checked for infection.
  • Frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored for decades in cord blood bank.
  • These cells can be manipulated to specialise into specific type of cells to treat particular illness.
  • They are simply administered or implanted to the individual intravenously, like blood transfusion as in when required.
  • Inside the body, these cells can trigger natural repair processes by reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow to injured or diseased organs or areas.
  • These cells can be used for transplants in severe disorders like blood disorders, immune deficiencies, metabolic diseases, and some kinds of cancers where the body cells are killed due to radiation.

Storing the stem cells is a crucial step in treating or curing an unexpected condition or illness which your child may face in later life. Though, there are certain limitations to it.

  1. So much of research is going on, as of now, the treatment is limited to the diseases that affect blood cells only.
  2. It is not known how likely a child is to need a transplant of his or her own cells, but experts say the chances are very small. Most of the transplants of cord blood stem cells use cord blood donated by others to public banks. The cord blood kept in bank is usually used to treat disease in a brother or sister.
  3. Normally, adults need more stem cells than cord blood has. Hence, it is rarely used in adults.
  4. It costs you heavily to store the cord blood. Yearly storage charges are to be paid to the cord banks.