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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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.