Every year more and more people talk about stem cells. They are used in various fields of medicine, as well as in cosmetology. Clinics have argued that stem cell therapy can help patients with dementia, autism, multiple sclerosis, and even cerebral palsy. Let’s find out what stem cells are in general, why they are often used, and what benefits they have.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are the so-called “immature” or undifferentiated cells that are in the body of every living multicellular creature. The body of any mammal, including humans, is equipped with a certain “reserve” of stem cells. Their main features are the ability to self-renew and form new identical cells, divide, and also take on the functions of any tissues and organs.
The role of these cells was studied by scientists in many countries of the world during almost the entire twentieth century, constantly supplementing knowledge about the role of stem cells in the body and the possibilities of their use. During the period of fetal development, all internal organs and other tissues are formed from stem cells. Since the process of cell differentiation occurs before birth, the developing organism contains the largest number of stem cells.
Stem cells are also present in the adult body. This is a kind of “repair kit” that the body uses to help restore and renew organs and tissues. The older the person, the fewer stem cells and the fewer opportunities to “repair” the affected organ exists. Reducing the number of stem cells and slowing down their production by the body is a natural process that is part of the physical aging process.
Do Cells Need to Be Stored in Reserves?
As with any potential multipurpose remedy or rejuvenation medicine, an expensive business has formed around stem cell therapy. More and more stem cell isolation and storage services are being offered “just in case”. Dental stem cells have great potential but no one knows when they can be put into practice to treat different diseases but the services for freezing them are already being offered.
Another common option is a cord blood bank. To save the stem cells in it, the umbilical cord must be cut as soon as possible after the birth of the child. These banks can be private and public.
To a public bank, the blood is donated for free but a specific child will not be able to use it. The sample is anonymized for storage, fully describing its characteristics, and can be given out after some time at the request of a particular hospital in order to conduct a transplant. Cord blood and stem cells from public banks can also be used for research purposes.
In a private bank, you need to pay for blood storage but if necessary (if a child is diagnosed with leukemia) your own stem cells can really save a life. But the probability of developing a disease before the age of 20 that can be treated with your own stem cells is almost zero. The likelihood that stem cells come in handy for treating one of your blood relatives is even lower.
This number is likely to increase when stem cells will actually start being used in the treatment of common diseases like strokes or diabetes. Today the services of a private cord blood bank are just a way to spend a lot of money.