Popular things people ask

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We’ve gathered the top things people ask when it comes to stem cells and regenerative medicine. You can save these, share them or read further with the supported links.


What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the foundation for every organ and tissue in the body - consider them the mother cells of any type of cell. Stem cells can become cells of the blood, heart, bones, skin, muscles, brain and so on.

There are many different sources of stem cells but all types of stem cells have the same capacity to develop into multiple types of cells. They have the ability to self-renew, so stem cells can live for the whole lifetime of the human or animal. Sterm cells can also differentiate, allowing more specialised cells to develop, such as the cells in the blood.

Stem cells can come from many different tissues the body and are formed at different times in our lives. For example embryonic stem cells exist only at the earliest stages of embryonic development and various other types of tissue-specific (or adult) stem cells appear during fetal development and remain in our bodies throughout life.

Stem cells can be retrieved from a variety of sources in the human body:

  • Umbilical Cord Blood
  • Umbilical Cord Tissue
  • Placenta
  • Adipose tissue (fat)
  • Dental pulp
  • Peripheral blood (Very Small Embryonic Like Stem Cells, VSEL, found in the blood in our veins)

There are an increasing number of diseases which can be treated with stem cell therapy. Bone marrow transplants were the most widely used stem cell transplant. More recently cord blood has been introduced as a source of stem cells and has now been used to treat more than 80 diseases.

In diseases such as leukemia, stem cell activity is disrupted resulting in an excess of abnormal white cells. This can be corrected using stem cell transplantation.


How do stem cells work?

A stem cell is essentially the building block of the human body. Stem cells are capable of dividing for long periods of time, are unspecialised, but can develop into specialised cells. They are the foundation for every organ and tissue in the body: they can become cells of the blood, heart, bones, skin, muscles, brain and so on.

The earliest stem cells in the human body are those found in the human embryo. The stem cells inside an embryo will eventually give rise to every cell, tissue and organ in the fetus's body. Unlike a regular cell, which can only replicate to create more of its own kind of cell, a stem cell is pluripotent – it can give rise to several different cell types. When it divides, it can make any one of the 220 different cells in the human body. Stem cells also have the capability to self-renew – they can reproduce themselves many times over. Stem cells can come from different places in the body and are formed at different times in a lifetime.

Stem cells can repair and replace many cell types in the body – because of this ability, they could be a potential source in future treatments of chronic and degenerative diseases, as well as treating damage to body tissue.


How are cord blood stem cells collected?

Cord blood stem cells are collected when a baby is born by the simple collection of the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been clamped.

The collection of cord blood does not interfere with the birth process and presents no harm to either mother or baby.

The cord blood is processed in a clean room laboratory to concentrate the stem cells for transplant and frozen in liquid nitrogen to create a stem cell bank. Once frozen the cord blood stem cells are theoretically stable indefinitely and the oldest frozen cord blood unit to be transplanted to date was over 20 years old.

Cord blood may be stored with private companies and kept for family use only or it can be donated to a public bank where it is available for transplant to anyone in need. There have been approximately 40,000 cord blood stem cell transplants to date for up to 80 different blood disorders, and over 600,000 cord blood units have been stored for transplantation worldwide.

These diseases are mainly diseases of the bone marrow such as leukaemia and they also include sickle cell disease, thalassaemia and the repair of bone marrow following high dose chemotherapy.

Clinical trials are underway using cord blood stem cells to treat cerebral palsy and autism.


Why would I need to store my stem cells?

Stem cells are specialised cells which have the ability to repair and replace many cell types in the body – as a result they have great potential in future treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases, as well as treating damage to body tissue.

By storing stem cells, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to use them, should you need to, in the future; these stem cells may also be of help to family members.

Bone marrow transplants are probably the most well known form of stem cell therapies, but scientific advances mean there are now far more conditions which can be treated with stem cells. To date, more than 80 conditions can now be treated using these medical advances.

Take leukemia: its cause is rooted in stem cell activity being disrupted which leads to an excess of abnormal white cells being produced. Using stem cell transplantation, though, this process can be successfully counteracted.

Stem cells are healthier, and are more likely to be successful in future therapies, if they are taken from a donor when he/she is younger and healthier. So the sooner cells are stored, the better chance they can help you. By storing cord blood stem cells, you’re storing the potential for various treatment options in the future. Your family might have genetic predispositions to certain conditions that stem cell therapies may be able to tackle at a later date.