An Overview of Stem Cells

stemcells101_2If you had to summarize the value of a stem cell in one word, it would be potential. This is because stem cells hold extraordinary potential – they are not only the building blocks of our organs, tissues, blood and immune system, they also have the ability to develop into different cell types in the human body.

Unlike any other cell in the human body, stem cells have three unique and remarkable characteristics. Stem cells are unspecialized, can divide and renew themselves without differentiating and in certain circumstances, a stem cell can also become a specialized cell in a process known as differentiation. This unique ability for stem cells to divide, differentiate and specialize is what makes stem cells invaluable in the emerging field of regenerative medicine. To learn more about how stem cells work, visit the National Institute of Health’s introduction to stem cells.

Stem Cells Used In Treatment
Today, stem cells are primarily used in the treatment of disease and in tissue regeneration. They largely come from one of three sources – cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood.

Medical advances using cord blood stem cells are moving forward quite rapidly. With their instant availability at birth and demonstrated utility, cord blood stem cells are the fastest growing source of stem cells, and are currently used to treat nearly 80 life-threatening diseases including blood disorders and certain types of cancers.

While research in tissue regeneration is in its relative infancy, it is clear that the future is encouraging. Clinical studies involving regenerative therapies directed at treatments such as Cerebral Palsy and Type 1 Diabetes, are being conducted today. Demonstrated clinical utility today and emerging treatments in regenerative medicine make the banking of a baby’s cord blood an important consideration for families.

Future Treatments with Stem Cells
As scientists continue to investigate new clinical applications for stem cells, it is likely that more diseases will be treated by stem cells. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, for example, are exploring ways to understand how stem cells may treat muscular dystrophy, congenital and genetic disorders, and heart disease.

Since cord blood is a primary source for stem cells, we encourage you to consider your banking options when it comes to your baby’s cord blood, either saving it for your family at a family bank or donating it to a public bank. Saving your newborn’s cord blood with a family bank, like ViaCord, will provide your baby and your family with direct access to his/her cord blood stem cells if a medical need arises. For more information, speak with your OB/GYN about all of your options and visit ViaCord’s website.

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