Sunday, 6 December 2015

Ethics of Stem Cell Banking

The field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine has been advancing at a rapid rate over the past decade. For those who are wondering about the hype surrounding stem cell biology - stem cells or master cells have the remarkable property to self-replicate throughout the life of the organism. Moreover, they can give rise to specialized cells which further take the place of damaged or dead cells. Unlike other mature cells that are permanently committed to their function, stem cells have a unique property to renew themselves and develop into specialized cells of the body. Major sources of stem cells include bone marrow, umbilical cord, embryo and adipose tissue. 

Scientists around the world have been striving hard to take advantage of stem cell’s unique
characteristics in order to apply in clinical applications and therapeutics. Stem cell banking is the practice of harvesting stem cells for long storage for transplants or research purpose. However, embryonic stem cell banking has steeped in ethical controversy centered on embryo destruction. That is where the role of umbilical cord stem cell banking takes the limelight. Umbilical cord blood, once discarded as per medical status, is now treasured by the medical communities. The cord blood that provides nourishment to the growing fetus is a great source of stem cells. Nowadays, the umbilical cord blood and tissue is collected right after the child birth. 

Expectant parents have the choice to either store or donate their newborn’s cord blood and umbilical cord tissue. Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) present in the cord blood is used as an effective alternative to bone marrow transplantation whereas Mesenchymal StemCells (MSCs) in umbilical cord tissue can potentially be used in a variety of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications. Paying annual private cord blood banking prices may prove worthy for the families with a history of immune deficiency diseases, leukemia, lymphomas and similar conditions.

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