The topics of stem cells and stem cell therapies continue to be incredibly intriguing for scientists, doctors and the general public alike. Every year, medical research into stem cells and treatments based on stem cell therapies are increasing at a dramatic rate. The current situation and future possibilities regarding stem cell therapies are both very positive for two main reasons. Firstly, adults have the option of storing their own cells with adult stem cell banking. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), parents have the option of storing their baby’s stem cells with cord blood banking.
So, if both options are available, why would you choose cord blood banking to store your baby’s stem cells? While both options have similar merit, there are some important differences to consider.
According to scientists from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), both adult stem cells (from blood or bone marrow) and stem cells from cord blood are rich in hematopoietic stem cells (HSC’s). These are used for the treatment of blood cell based diseases, such as leukemias and anaemias. However, the differences between both options are more extensive.
- Adult stem cells can be derived from many tissues of the body, including bone marrow, blood cells, (adipose) fat cells, dental pulp (tissue within teeth) and even from the liver and brain tissue. By far, the stem cells most extensively studied and used in therapy are those from bone marrow. They are obtained from a patient during adult life. Depending on which cells/tissues are collected, the collection process may be invasive or painful.
- Conversely, stem cells from cord blood are collected shortly after a baby’s birth. Blood from the umbilical cord is collected; this is a completely pain-free and non-invasive procedure for both a mother and her baby.
- Umbilical cord blood contains a very high level of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC’s). MSC’s are a type of stem cell with far more potential diversity than HSC’s. Scientific research has uncovered that MSC’s can potentially form bone, cartilage and even muscle, liver, pancreatic and nerve cells.
- Adult stem cells generally only repair and renew the tissue from which they were collected. For example, adult stem cells from skin can only grow into new skin. While this is useful, adult stem cells appear to have far less potential diversity than those found in cord blood.
At present, stem cells from cord blood are used in very similar ways to adult stem cells to treat conditions such as blood cancers and some forms of anaemia. However, the therapeutic possibilities for stem cells from cord blood appear to be far greater compared to stem cells collected in adulthood. Stem cells from cord blood are under investigation for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, type I diabetes, immune disorders, eczema, liver and kidney disease to name a few.
Cord blood is rich in stem cells that have high potential diversity. More and more clinical trials are showing the benefits of cord blood banking to the future of human health. Banking of your baby’s cord blood can only happen once at birth, but the health benefits it could provide appear to endure well into adult life.