Stem Cell Research is one of the more controversial topics in the Blogosphere. There are those that welcome the potential for new medical break throughs, and those that scream “baby-killers!” And there are some — like me — who are somewhere in the middle. I think stem cell research is a good thing — but I don’t want that research done from the blood of aborted fetuses.
CryoCell International, a stem cell research company that does not use fetal tissue, has announced its breakthroughs in stem cell research. You can read the CryoCell Press Release here. Basically, if I read it right, CryoCell, is pioneering the use of menstrual blood in stem cell research.
It seems that adding menstrual blood to umbilical cord blood (donated voluntarily) increases not only the volume of the blood collected, but the probability that more blood cells will grow to full maturity. Further, menstrual blood is a non-controversial and renewable source of easily collected and preserved stem cells. Another benefit is that menstrual blood can be collected monthly (and Amoeba says that 5% of the population is menstruating on any given day) while umbilical cord blood stock-piles much more slowly.
Consider the research possibilities! Menstrual stem cells can differentiate into more different kinds of cells (skin, bone, brain tissue, lung tissue, etc.) than any other adult stem cell. All the benefits of stem cell research without the controversy.
And Amoeba added:
So then Quilly turns to me and says “you can start your lecture now”. I presume that’s the one about stem cells, not on pay-per-blogging …
“You’re just jealous, dude.”
No, dude, just waiting for my first sponsored cup of joe. Anyway. Stem cells, as you probably know, are “undifferentiated”. They can, at least in theory, turn into any other kind of cell (the “differentiated” cells found in organs, skin, blood, bone, nerves, etc.). Unlike most kinds of cells in the human body, which either don’t grow at all or can produce only more cells like themselves. So, if you can get a bunch of stem cells to grow you a new pancreas when your old one kicks the bucket, you’ve got something.
In practice, however, the only stem cells that can truly turn into any other kind of cell are the ones from embryos – which are (ahem) troublesome to acquire. Most stem cell types from adults can only produce certain kinds of cells. Bone marrow stem cells, for instance, typically produce cells of the bone and blood tissues, but can’t easily be induced to make any other kinds. And, bone marrow cells are likewise (for different reasons) troublesome to acquire.
The stem cells in menstrual blood actually come from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) – which could have been called upon to produce tissues associated with pregnancy, such as those of the placenta. These cells are, er, not troublesome to acquire, and are claimed to be competent to produce more kinds of differentiated cells than any other type of adult stem cell. There is some controversy surrounding this last point – controversy that’s not easily resolved because the research work is funded privately and, to protect private profit potential, is not discussed in the public scientific literature.
Nevertheless, if the claims be true, menstrual stem cells could be a great boon. For half of us, anyway.
This is a paid post and Dr. Amoeba, PhD, helped me write it.