A few years ago expectant parents were offered new 4D, full color scanning of their unborn children. For a few hundred dollars, a parent could have color photographs and a movie of their child before it had even been born. This caused a lot of controversy and the Food and Drug Administration warned that ultrasounds may not be safe, even though the medical profession has been telling pregnant women that they are safe for decades.
Now, a new craze has begun, again aimed at expectant parents. This time it’s cord blood banking and it’s even more expensive than 4D scanning, although a great deal more useful. For several thousand pounds and yearly storage fees, parents can collect and store the cord blood of their child. Cord blood is rich in stem cells. Stem cells can turn into any other cell, for instance, a blood cell or a cell that makes up an organ. Stem cells also have the ability to repair internal damage in the body. A newborn baby or a very young baby has better stem cells than an adult because they are capable of forming into any body part, whereas adult stem cells cannot. This is why a baby can sometimes completely recover from a stroke or scarring that would cause permanent damage in an adult.
Why do People Store Cord Blood?
Stem cells can be taken from cord blood. If the owner of the blood gets ill years later, for instance, with cancer, the stem cells can be used to help regenerate healthy cells and put the cancer into remission.
If the person has a serious car accident or burn injury, they can regenerate their skin with the use of stem cells.
There has even been a case of a little girl "recovering" from cerebral palsy after being given stem cells, although her doctors don’t know if this recovery will be permanent.
Scientists are also researching its use in transplantation. If they can grow new organs using the person’s own stem cells, they will be able to do transplant operations without the risk of organ rejection or the need to take immune-suppressive anti-rejection drugs.
What Diseases can Stem Cells Treat?
Here are a few examples of the illnesses that stem cells have been used to treat: