Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can be described as "shape shifters." These cells have the ability to change into other types of cells. Stem cells are at the center of a new field of science called regenerative medicine. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer. Eventually, they may also be used to regenerate organs, reducing the need for organ transplants and related surgeries.
"Stem cells are like little kids who, when they grow up, can enter a variety of professions," Dr. Marc Hedrick of the UCLA School of Medicine says. "A child might become a fireman, a doctor or a plumber, depending on the influences in their life -- or environment. In the same way, these stem cells can become many tissues by making certain changes in their environment."
Stem cells are present in umbilical cord blood and the placenta. Once a baby is born, these cells can be extracted from the discarded tissue and preserved for the benefit of children and adults who suffer from devastating bone marrow and blood diseases. Additionally, placental and umbilical cord derived stem cells appear to be highly versatile and may have the potential to repair and regenerate a broad range of damaged or diseased tissues. These stem cells are obtained after the baby is born. There is no harm to the mother or child.
What are placental stem cells?
Placenta-derived stem cells are those stem cells that remain in the placenta after cord blood collection. The placenta is a particularly rich source of hematopoietic (blood forming) cells, similar to those found in cord blood. These cells can transform into many other cell types including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Furthermore, there is significant evidence that shows placenta derived stem cells can differentiate into many other types of tissue other that just blood forming cells.
What are umbilical cord stem cells?
Cord blood, the blood that's left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born, is rich in stem cells. Umbilical cord blood stem cells have the ability to multiply and form different kinds of cells. The cord blood stem cells may be used for blood formation, much like the stem cells taken from bone marrow or the placenta. These cord blood stem cells are typically discarded with the umbilical cord and placenta after birth, yet they can be used in life-saving therapies. Cord blood stem cells have been used for transplants in patients with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or immune-system disorders.
Information about other stem cells...