About Stem Cells

Medical science has been researching stem cells since the late 1800’s but the first official research paper was first published in 1961. Recent developments have proven how beneficial and integral stem cells are to us.

So what exactly are stem cells?

They’re the building blocks of life. Stem Cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide to produce more stem cells. In essence, for a cell to be classified as a stem cell it needs to possess the ability to self-heal and divide itself into two cells and secondly, they should be able to turn into cells that can adapt to different organs, i.e. a stem cell can function as a simple blood cell, a brain cell or a lung cell.

Types of Stem Cells

There are two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

Adult stem cells
Adult stem cells are usually present in the bone marrow, blood and adipose tissues. The method of extracting stem cells from adults is usually extensive, more invasive and highly expensive.

Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells are found in the umbilical at the time of birth, they are also known as umbilical cord stem cells.

The process of extracting stem cells from the umbilical cord right after birth is the most preferred way of harvesting stem cells because of the low amount of risk and costs involved. The umbilical cord blood is one of the richest sources of hematopoietic stem cells, which are red blood cells in the making. This is why embryonic stem cells are the most viable sources of stem cells present today.

What is an umbilical cord?

The umbilical cord is a long cord, usually 20 inches long that connects the baby to its mother inside the womb. It originates from an opening on the baby’s stomach and is attached to the placenta inside the womb. The umbilical cord functions for a baby are many, the most important of these is carrying oxygen and nutrients from the placenta to the baby’s bloodstream. It also features two arteries & 1 vein that carry oxygenated blood & return deoxygenated blood and waste products from the baby, back to the placenta.

After the child is born, the umbilical cord is clamped off and then removed after 3 minutes. The umbilical cord then can be preserved in a cord blood bank.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem-cell therapy is widely defined as the use of stem cells for treating or preventing a disease or condition. The most widely used stem cell therapy today is via bone marrow transplant, but with the exponential growth of technology and medical research, therapies derived from umbilical cord blood are growing in popularity.
Stem cell therapy can be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, ranging from types of cancer to heart disease and more.

How are embryonic stem cells used for therapy?

Embryonic stem cells therapy has gained traction over the years because of the intensive research carried out since the early nineties. In 1981, individual stem cells were successfully derived from mice. In 1998, professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered a technique to isolate and grow human embryonic stem cells in a cell culture.

This embryonic stem cell research paved the way for the first clinical trials in 2009. This phase-1 trial focused on transplanting a specific type of stem cells (oligodendrocytes) derived from human embryonic stem cells in to individuals who had spinal cord injuries. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be used for the treatment or prevention of a stunning array of diseases.For more information read here.

How can you protect your child?

Stem cell banking allows you to preserve your child umbilical cord blood which is full of stem cells. This provides parents with a great insurance policy that can protect your child should they be diagnosed with any disease or condition that can be preserved with the used of stem cell therapy. Consult with your doctor in order to understand the implications and possibilities of umbilical cord preservation in India.