Stem Cells   



Stem Cells

 
Stem cells have proven to be able to treat many health conditions. Top Wellness Health takes a look at how stem cells can be a form of insurance to our health.

What are stem cells? Stern cells are essentially primal cells of the human body. Stem cells, unlike normal cells, have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body regardless of its source. It is capable of dividing and renewing itself.

Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, stem cells can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain as a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialised function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or even a brain cell.

Stem cells can be derived from the embryo, the bone marrow, the umbilical cord blood or adult peripheral blood. However, retrieving stem cells from an embryo has been the cause of many ethical controversies. Although it is less controversial, harvesting peripheral blood stem cells requires the use of a drug known as C-GSF. Currently, this method is mainly applied on terminally ill cancer patients.

Scientists in many laboratories are trying to find ways to grow stem cells in cell culture and manipulate them to generate specific cell types so they can be used to treat injury or disease.
Source of stem cells Embryo- Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilised in vitro and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors.

Bone marrow- Stem cells can be harvested from the bone marrow through a surgical procedure, which is usually done under general anaesthesia.
This procedure may cause post-operative pain and may pose a small risk to the donor.

Umbilical cord blood- This can be obtained from the umbilical cord and placenta at the time of delivery.

Adult stem cells- The adult tissues reported to contain stem cells include the bone marrow, blood vessels, fat, baby tooth, hair follicles and liver.

What are the advantages of stem cells from the umbilical cord blood?
Some studies have suggested that stem cells that are harvested from the umbilical cord have an advantage over those obtained from the bone marrow. It is also much easier to retrieve stem cells from cord blood as it can only be obtained immediately from the placenta after the delivery of the baby.

A larger number of recipients may benefit from cord blood stem cells. These can be stored and transplanted back into the donor and to a family member. Unlike a bone marrow transplant which requires a nearly perfect match of the HLA between the donor and the recipient for it to succeed, cord blood stem cells do not require such exact standards.

Stem cells from cord blood accept a recipient's environment more easily, thus there is less risk for Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), a potentially fatal complication in which the donor cells attack the recipient's tissues.

How is it collected?
Collections can take place after vaginal or caesarean births. The cord is clamped and cut, the cord blood is taken using a needle.
The blood is drawn from the umbilical vein and fills the specialised cord blood collection bag. Because the collection occurs after the cord has been clamped and cut, this procedure poses little risk and no pain to the infant or mother.

Stem cell banking
Cord blood banking is a business of processing and cryogenically preserving cord blood stem cells for potential medical use therapies in the future.
The umbilical cord blood is a valuable source of stem cells. When stem cells from cord blood are used, the donor cells appear to be able to engraft better in the donor. Stem cells harvested from the umbilical cord blood can be used to treat most blood related diseases and it is presently being researched for the treatment of diseases ranging from heart disease, liver, kidney, skin and diabetes.

Treatment Purposes
Stem cells can be used in important life-saving treatment for more than 70 different kinds of blood diseases. These life threatening blood diseases include cancer, immune deficiencies, malignant blood disorders and other inherited metabolic disorders.

Transplants that have been done around the world using stem cell technology include spinal cord injuries, cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, acute melogenous leukaemia, heart failure, Hodgkin's disease and Non-Hodgkin's disease. It also includes blood disorder like beta-thalassaemia (Cooley's anaemia) and immune deficiencies like Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome.

The potential benefits of general stem cell research are truly limitless. This has created hope for individuals and families who can one day benefit from stem cell therapy.
Such potential has generated great interest and excitement among scientists, doctors, medical professionals and patients alike for diseases that currently has no cure.

Cord blood banking is a form of bioinsurance. If a child's cord blood that you store can be used to treat diseases for family members who need it, the effort is certainly worth the cost. So if you are thinking of protecting your family against diseases, cord blood banking offers such a hope. 
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Happy reading,
Evelyn


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