Stem Cells “Building blocks of the body”
Stem cells are essentially the building blocks of the human body. Stem cells are capable of dividing for long period of time, are unspecialized, but can develop into specialized cells. 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 foetus body. Unlike a regular cell, which can only replicate to create more of its own kind of cell .
A stem cell is pluripotent. 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.
There are several types of stem cells, including:
Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells include those found within the embryo, the foetus or the umbilical cord blood depending upon when they are harvested, embryonic stem cells can give rise to just about any cell in the human body.
Adult stem cells
Adult stem cells can be found in infants, children and adults. They reside in already developed tissues such as those of the heart, brain and kidney. They usually give rise to cells within their resident organs.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC)
These stem cells are adult, differentiated cells that have been experimentally “reprogrammed” into a stem cell-like state.
Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells
Cord-blood banking basically means collecting and storing the blood from within the umbilical cord (the part of the placenta that delivers nutrients to a foetus) after a baby is born. Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which are potentially useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants (also called bone marrow transplants), such as certain kinds of leukemia or lymphoma, aplastic anemia, severe sickle cell disease, and severe combined immunodeficiency The value of cord blood stem cells over bone marrow.
Cord Blood Transplant versus Bone Marrow Transplant
When deciding between whether a cord blood transplant or a bone marrow transplant is a better choice for you, it is important to look at a broad range of criteria:
Graft vs Host Disease
Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) can be fatal in up to 40% of patients. Unlike bone marrow, cord blood is more primitive and therefore there is a lower chance that cord blood cells will attack the recipient’s body, resulting in a lower incidence of GVHD.
In order for a transplant to be successful, a match that is as close as possible is needed in order to reduce the risk of GVHD. Because stem cells found in cord blood are primitive, they are more adaptable and so a perfect match is not needed. This allows for a wider range of recipients to be treated and reduces the risk of GVHD.
Rich Source of Stem Cells
Cord blood is believed to contain 10 times the amount of stem cells found in bone marrow of an equal portion.
Because stem cells found in cord blood are younger, they are more likely than stem cells found in bone marrow to have proliferative properties; this means that stem cells found in cord blood have a greater ability to regenerate.
Some 30000 individuals are diagnosed annually with diseases that require stem cell transplants. However, of these individuals, 75% do not have a matching relative for a bone marrow transplant and 70% cannot find a matching donor. Because severe types of cancer as well as certain immune deficiencies and blood disorders such as specific cases of anemia require prompt treatment, many individuals die before they are able to find a bone marrow transplant donor. On the other hand, cord blood banking means that cord blood is readily available for transplants, a fact which is true for both private and public banking.
A cord blood transplant offers a quick and painless collection procedure since the stem cells are removed from the umbilical cord. On the other hand, a blood marrow transplant is an invasive procedure which requires a general anesthesia. Bone marrow is removed from the rear of the pelvic bone through a series of injections.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Different Stem Cell Sources
|Sources of Stem Cell||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Embryonic Stem Cell||1. Pluripotency: can differentiate into any cell type in the body.
2. Serve as a strong platform for pluripotency, developmental and lineage commitment studies.
|1. Ethical, religious and political concerns.
2. Limited number of cells isolated from each embryo.
3. High chance of transformation into cancer cells (teratomas).
4. Cells instability in-vitro due to lack of proper imprinting patterns.
|Adult Stem Cell||1.No ethical, religious or political controversies.
2. Effective in generation their tissue of origin.
3. No risk of teratoma formation
4. Established clinical history.
|1. Often invasive collection procedure.
2. Limited cell numbers in human body tissues.
3. Limited differentiation capabilities.
4. Limited supply.
5. Limited availability of HLA – match donors.
|Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells||1. No ethical, religious or political controversies.
2. Collection procedure is totally safe and noninvasive
3. Abundant supply.
4. Low viral contamination.
5. Ability to store cord blood units in cord blood banks.
6. No risk of teratoma formation.
7. Lower risk of graft v/s host diseases (GvHD).
8. Tolerance of HLA mismatching.
9. Higher proliferation capacity compared with adult stem cells.
|Limited number of stem cells per single cord blood unit.
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