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Stem Cells: A Breakdown, and Cord Blood Stem Cells Explained

By Apurva Shree, American Chronicle, May 14, 2007

The magical ability of the stem cell has been made popular by media and public controversy. But aside from being familiar with the debate about embryonic versus adult stem cells, few know the tangible facts about stem cells themselves. What makes stem cells so extraordinary, and how do cord blood stem cells fit into the healing puzzle?

All the organ cells in the body are represented by stem cells in some way, shape, and form. It is akin to natureís medicine cabinet when one thinks of stem cells; if an organ became damaged due to injury or poor health, the body could prescribe the suitable treatment from this reserve. Each potential dilemma would be treated with only one dose of a stem cell because through the process of duplication and differentiation, the cell would quickly create copies of itself to repair the damage. The only exception would be in the case of nerve, muscle, and bone cells. Replication does not normally occur in these cell types. Learning about the different types of cells, categorized by their purpose, is important to grasp this point.

There are three primary types of stem cells.

Stromal - These cells come from fibrous connective tissue, cartilage, fat, and bone.

Hematopoietic - This type of cell is found in adult bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. Platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells, are created by hematopoietic stem cells. The most current studies show that the cells are not only proficient at producing the components of blood, but other cells in the body as well.

Pluripotent - Any tissue in the body can be formed with these cells. There are diverse forms of pluripotent stem cells, the most widley recognized is of the embryonic variety. Some adult stem cells have shown pluripotency as well.

With this breakdown of stem cells noted, moving to cord blood stem cells and describing the difference can be better understood.

Cord blood stem cells have become a trendy subject with the increasing popularity of cord blood banking and cord blood treatment. These cells are vital in treating genetic diseases such as, disorders of the immune system and blood, as well as cancers. This is because platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells, can be formed by the differentiating blood stem cells contiained in cord blood.

Since they can be harvested from the placenta and umbilical cord after delivery as opposed to resorting to a surgical procedure, cord blood stem cells are easier to harvest compared to bone marrow stem cells. Once extracted, the cells can be saved in one of them many cord blood banks around the globe. The cells can be withdrawn at a later date to treat illness in the donorís family, or another individual can potentially make use of the cells regardless of familial relationship.

Neuroblastoma, anemia, lymphoma, leukemia, and many other immune system, blood, and cancer disorders have been effectively treated using cord blood. Recently, Illinois doctors effectively treated leukemia using cord blood. Given cord bloodís genetic predisposition to become diseased, skeptics had mounted against the use of cord blood on sickened donors. But the recent leukemia treatment has silenced the critics.

Because stem cells can heal almost any illness, cord blood has moved to the forefront of the stem cell topic. The blood can be used at a later date to treat illness by storing it in a cord blood bank. For more information, can provide assistance.


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