What Are Umbilical Cord Stem Cells?
Umbilical cord blood stem cells are simply stem cells in the umbilical cord blood and tissue when a baby is born. In recent years many stem cell banks have appeared, providing collection services and storage facilities of umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cells.
Types of Umbilical Cord Stem Cells
There are two types of umbilical cord stem cells. One is obtained from the umbilical cord blood while the other is from the umbilical cord tissue. While both are stem cells, their differences lie in the cell type they can produce.
Umbilical cord blood stem cells are abundant in Hematopoietic Stem Cells or HSC, which holds the ability to differentiate into blood cells. The umbilical cord tissue stem cells are rich in Mesenchymal Stem Cells or MSC, which can differentiate to form bone cells, cartilage and connective tissues.
As a result, both types of stem cells from umbilical hold different properties and potential. Therefore, it is important to collect both types.
Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Research
There is currently a large volume of research being carried out on using stem cells for all kinds of health conditions. In the early days, it was thought that umbilical cord blood held potential for growing blood cells only. Today, scientists know that the stem cells isolated from umbilical cord, blood or tissues, is capable for more than just for blood-related illness. This is good news for patients. But the optimism may be withheld until research confirms the efficacy. In addition, one of the major obstacles for using stem cells is the method of administering the stem cells, even after it has been proven effective for a condition. In other words, how could the stem cells be introduced into the body without losing the intended efficacy. Therefore, more research is still needed.
The number of diseases treatable with umbilical cord stem cells is on the rise. In the early days, around the 1980s, it has been shown to be effective against blood -related disorders. Today, it is used to treat close to a hundred illnesses. While that may sound like great news, the situation may not be as rosy as it seems. This should not be used as the criteria for deciding whether or not to keep the stem cell.
Though it is a matter of time more and more diseases will be treated with umbilical cord stem cells, that may not be the best consideration to bank the stem cell in a private facility.
Reasons for Collecting and Banking Umbilical Cord Stem Cells
In all likelihood, the pitch for collecting your baby’s stem cells is for treatment of diseases in the future. But if you are not sure the real capability of the stem cells, you could be paying for something that might not deliver what you have hoped for.
If a child has genetic disease, then the baby’s own stem cells may not be the best source for treatment as there is a possibility that the seed of the disease is in the stem cells though the type match is perfect. If this is the case, it might not be justifiable for the ongoing cost. This is where medical professionals may be divided in their opinion on whether one should collect the stem cells for such future purposes.
Many medical professionals are of the opinion that umbilical cord stem cells be donated to public facilities. In the long run, this will benefit everyone, including those with genetic disease, as they will have a better chance of finding stem cells which are free from the genetic seed. However, we cannot deny that type match within the same family between siblings will definitely be batter than from outside pool. In this situation, one has to weigh the ongoing cost against other considerations.
Finally, umbilical cord stem cells are definitely promising in their disease-treatment potential. As research reveals treatment of more health problems, consideration for collection and banking should include other factors discussed in this article.