What is a Stem Cell?
A stem cell is essentially a “blank” cell, capable of becoming another more differentiated cell type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell.
Why are Stem Cells Important?
Stem cells can be used to replace or heal damaged tissues and cells in the body.
What are the 2 Broad Classes of Stem Cells?
Two basic types of stem cells are embryonic type and adult type (adult type includes all types that do not destroy a human embryo).
Embryonic (Embryo-Destructive) Type
Embryonic Stem Cells
Embryonic Germ Cells
Umbilical Cord Stem Cells
Placental Stem Cells
Adult Stem Cells (from blood, bone marrow, all body tissue, hair follicles, deciduous (baby) teeth, etc)
Where do Embryonic Type Stem Cells Come From?
EMBRYOS – Embryonic stem cells are obtained by harvesting living human embryos which are generally 5-7 days old. The removal of embryonic stem cells historically results in the destruction of the human embryo.
FETUSES – Another kind of stem cell, called an embryonic germ cell, can be obtained from either miscarriages or aborted human fetuses. [“Fetus” is a Latin word for “offspring” or “young one”.]
Where do Adult Type Stem Cells Come From?
UMBILICAL CORD BLOOD, PLACENTAS, AMNIOTIC FLUID, WHARTON'S JELLY – Adult type stem cells can be derived from various pregnancy related tissues.
ADULT TISSUES – In adults, stem cells are present within various tissues and organ systems. These include the bone marrow, liver, epidermis, retina, skeletal muscle, intestine, brain, dental pulp, hair follicles, olfactory mucosa (nose), and elsewhere. Even fat obtained from liposuction has been shown to contain significant numbers of adult type stem cells.
CADAVERS – Neural stem cells have been removed from specific areas in post-mortem human brains as late as 20 hours following death.
How Do Embryonic and Adult Stem Cells Compare?
EMBRYONIC STEM CELL ADVANTAGES
1 Flexible – appear to have the potential to make any cell
2 Immortal – one embryonic stem cell line can potentially provide an endless supply of cells with defined characteristics
3 Availability – embryos from in vitro fertilization centers
EMBRYONIC STEM CELL DISADVANTAGES
1 Difficult to differentiate uniformly and homogeneously into a target tissue
2 Immunogenic – embryonic stem cells from a random embryo donor are likely to be rejected after transplantation
3 Tumorigenic – Capable of forming tumors or promoting tumor formation
4 Destruction of developing human life
ADULT STEM CELL ADVANTAGES
1 Special adult type stem cells from bone marrow and from umbilical cords (from the blood and from Wharton’s Jelly) have been isolated recently which appear to be as flexible as the embryonic type
2 Already somewhat specialized – inducement may be simpler
3 Not immunogenic – recipients who receive the products of their own stem cells will not experience immune rejection
4 Relative ease of procurement – wome adult stem cells are easy to harvest (skin, muscle, marrow, fat, hair follicles), while others may be more difficult to obtain (brain stem cells). Umbilical and placental stem cells are likely to be readily available
5 Non-tumorigenic – tend not to form tumors
6 No harm done to the donor
ADULT STEM CELL DISADVANTAGES
1. Limited quantity – can sometimes be difficult to obtain in large numbers (waning problem)
2. Finite – may not live as long as embryonic stem cells in culture (waning problem)
3. Less flexible (with the exception of #1 above advantages) – may be more difficult to reprogram to form other tissue types. [more recent research is finding that several types of adult stem cells are now considered “pluripotent” and even “totipotent”, making them very similar to embryonic stem cells.]
Thus, these 3 Adult Stem Cell "Disadvantages" are being overcome with time and research.
[Family Research Council, www.frc.org, 2005]
Benefits of Stem Cells to Human Patients
Adult Stem Cells v. Embryonic Stem Cells
References for these Adult Stem Cell Treatments:
Stem Cell News and Resources
The Current Status of Adult and Embryonic Stem Cell Research, by John B. Shea, MD, FRCP
Background of Umbilical Cord Blood Treatment/Research
In 1988, physicians performed the first umbilical cord blood transplant on a 6-year-old boy with Fanconi anemia using a cord blood unit from an HLA-matched sibling. The success of this and subsequent cord blood transplants led to the establishment of cord blood banks that collect, process, tissue type and cryopreserve cord blood units (CBUs) for use in blood cell transplantation. Co
rd blood is being researched as an alternative cell source for hematopoietic reconstitution where an allogeneic transplant may be indicated. [http://www.marrow.org/DONOR/Donation_Transplant_Process/The_Donation_Procedure/CB_Donation/Advanced/index.html]
Cord Blood Donation Process
When a mother decides to donate her child's umbilical cord blood:
The cord blood bank asks the mother to complete a consent form and health history questionnaire and give a small blood sample. The cord blood is collected after the baby's birth.
Doctors search the NMDP Registry of donors and cord blood units to find a match for their patients who need a transplant. If selected, the cord blood unit is transplanted to a matching patient.
Umbilical Cord Blood Collection
Collecting cord blood poses no health risk to the mother or infant donor. The cord blood is collected after delivery and would normally be discarded. The cord blood is stored only with the mother's signed consent, and no collection is made if there are any complications during delivery.
On average, about three to five fluid ounces are collected from the umbilical cord. If the amount is too small, there will not be enough blood-forming cells to be used for transplantation and the cord blood unit (CBU) will not be stored. CBUs that do not meet the criteria for transplant may be used by researchers in the search for new and more effective medical uses for cord blood cells.
The collected cord blood is taken to a laboratory where it is tested and processed.
It is tested for the HLA type, which is listed on the NMDP Registry and used to match the CBU with patients who need a transplant.
Often, the red blood cells and plasma, which are not needed for transplants, are removed so the CBU takes less storage space.
If the CBU meets eligibility standards, it is then stored in a plastic or vinyl bag in a liquid nitrogen freezer. It can be stored for a long time. Studies have shown good cell recovery after up to ten years of storage (Clin Exp Immunol 1997; 107, Suppl 1). Studies are ongoing to determine the storage life of CBUs.
Process of Consent
The cord blood bank always gets the mother's written permission before banking the cord blood. The mother is also asked to provide a blood sample for infectious disease testing and to fill out health history forms. All information that would identify the mother or infant donor is kept confidential at the cord blood bank. The mother will be informed if tests performed on a sample of her blood or the umbilical cord blood show information that may be important for her or her baby to know for health purposes.
Last Updated: March 2007
COLLECTS FOR: Research & Transplants
COLLECTS FROM: ANYWHERE!
PHONE: 1-877-LIFEBANKUSA (1-877-543-3226)
STORAGE: Cedar Knolls, NJ or Baton Rouge, LA
TRANSPLANT REGISTRIES: CRIR
LifebankUSA is one of only two banks that accepts donations mailed in from anywhere. LifebankUSA is a subsidiary of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics , a biotech pharmaceuticals company (Nasdaq: CELG). They primarily do business as a private cord blood bank. The LifebankUSA public donation program can be found under the "Medical Professionals" section of their website, but the best way to get information is to phone.
LIfebankUA is the first cord blood bank to routinely bank the stem cells from the placenta, in addition to the umbilical cord blood. This is a separate process. They recommend collecting blood from the umbilical cord in utero, then the placenta is delivered and cells are extracted from the placenta.
LifebankUSA encourages parents to donate the placenta, regardless of how they are banking the umbilical cord blood.
COLLECTS FOR: Transplants
COLLECTS FROM: Selected hospitals in north Florida and south Alabama
PHONE: (352) 224-1600 or 334-1000
STORAGE: Shands Hospital at Univ of Florida, Gainesville, FL
TRANSPLANT REGISTRIES: BMDW, NMDP
This bank is a Participating Member of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) cord blood bank network.
LifeCord is a program of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, developed in cooperation with the University of Florida College of Medicine and the Shands at UF Stem Cell Laboratory. The medical director of LifeCord is John R. Wingard, M.D. As of Jan 2006, collections are accepted from:
North Florida Regional Medical Center,
Shands at AGH,
Shands at UF,
Shands at LakeShore,
The Birthing Center,
The Patient's Corner,
Baptist South and Baptist East Hospitals in Montgomery, Alabama
East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama — starting Feb 2006