We are all well aware of the new promises offered by umbilical stem cell cord blood. Simply put, cord blood contains a rich store of stem cell – which have the capacity to develop into any other type of cell in the human body. As a result, we are suddenly poised to make great medical breakthroughs where radical types of treatment begin to be available to cure a number of disorders previously thought incurable.
There is a great debate about the ethics of harvesting stem cells from embryos. Even though the embryo may not be created specifically for the purpose, many people still have reservations about the subject. With cord blood there is no such dispute. The cord or the placenta is in any case discarded after birth, so collecting the blood left in it does not offend any sensibilities. Seen in this manner, cord blood collection is certainly very desirable.
On the con side, it does need to be said that cord bloodl is certainly not the best source of stem cells. Undoubtedly, the best source is from the human embryo. Stem cells obtained from a five to six day old embryo are ‘pluripotent’ which means that they can change into practically any other type of cell. In contrast, adult stem cells are those that are collected from a mature organism – such as the placenta which produces the cord blood. However, considering that there are no religious or ethical issues associated with cord blood collection and storage, it is certainly a more viable option.
Yet another great thing about cord blood is the near certainty of it matching the donor and a great possibility that it would be easily accepted by the parent, siblings or other close relatives of the donor. The blood you store is stored in a cord blood bank and is available to you or your family in the future.
The flip side to cord blood storage, and to any type of stem cell therapy indeed, is the uncertainty that it will actually help a patient when needed. While science is developing daily in this direction, there is still no guarantee that the process of cord blood banking will develop to an extent where cures become a certainty. However, given the other uncertainties of life, you can look as cord blood storage as an investment that may – or may not bear fruit. But look at it this way – if you make the investment, there is a fair chance that you will get returns. If you do not, you are guaranteed not to get any returns! As the pro said – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t attempt!