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In The News: Stem Cell Research

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.

Code Of Ethics


  1. A difficult one. As for me, I’m all for scientific research going where it goes. The problem comes in then turning this into technology. We do not have the proper moral philosophy system in place to offer a complete debate for politicians and public as to what is and what is not acceptable.
    Until philosophy regains its rightful place within genuine debate, the moral maze will be a free for all.
    As for myself, I disagree with using embryos.
    .-= Anthony North´s last blog ..HARRY PATCH =-.

    1. Tony — the problem is always in taking things to far. Excess is a common human trait and each person differs in his or her interpretation of where “enough” ends.

    1. Doug — I just keep thinking of that joke where the two scientists tell God they don’t need him anymore because they can create people as well as he can. They begin by scooping a handful of dirt into a test tube, at which point God stops them, takes the test tube away and tells them they need to make their own dirt.

  2. You’re right about this being controversial – that’s for sure! And I tend to avoid controversy. But since I’m rather middle of the road on this one too, I will say — that while I do NOT endorce abortion under any circumstances, if the cells can be obtained from natural miscarriages I have no problem with research being done on them. And if menstrual blood can be of assistance, then by all means… sOMething good should come of it! Fortunately for me, donating EITHER anymore is not an option!
    .-= Melli´s last blog ..Idiom Wednesday… playin’ Ketchup! =-.

    1. Melli — yes. As I said, I think stem cell research is a grand idea, but there is the huge possibility that unscrupulous business practices can produce too many abuses and atrocities in it’s name. That is why I was excited to read about CryoCell and chose to bring it to everyone’s attention. Not just for the very few cents I will earn for this article (probably won’t buy Amoeba that cup of joe), but because I was excited to hear this news.

  3. Difficult to say something, I don’t understand enough. I would be a bad donator, I have no monthly blood left; But if this helps then to me it’s fine.
    .-= Gattina´s last blog .. =-.

    1. Gattina — I had to get Amoeba to help me to be certain I understood what I was reading. I suppose it would be even harder had I been trying to understand it in a languare other than my own!

  4. Stem Cell research is controversial in more than this area and I believe there was something in the news about research being done on the circumcision of new borne male babies a couple of years ago being of some benefit.

    If this research that you speak of helps people then unless it is morally or ethically wrong, I think we should let it benefit someone who needs the help.

    I am kind of middle of the road on most things unless I feel it is morally wrong, but this is just my thoughts, and I try not to influence anyone else with them.

    Good thought provoking Post Quilly, thanks for sharing.
    .-= Bill´s last blog ..My Dad ~ Thanks For The Memories =-.

    1. That’s another interesting wrinkle, Bill. I understand circumcision is very bloody, but I didn’t realize there was enough blood loss to make gathering it profitable.

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