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Cord Blood and Stem Cell Research

Published: 2009-01-11
Author: Frank Vanderlugt

Synopsis: Stem cells from fetuses and cord blood are interesting to medical research because stem cells are vital and effective treatments in combating many forms of human diseases.

Main Digest

Stem cells from fetuses and cord blood are particularly interesting to medical research. This is because stem cells are vital and effective treatments in combating many forms of human disease, particularly those that affect the body at the cellular level.

Related

Ever wondered how that little one-celled blob of DNA that every human being was once turned into you

Have you ever stopped to wonder how it is that each cell in your body has the same DNA but you have so many different types of cells all in the right places? You don't get a liver cell growing on your skin and you don't have hair follicles inside your brain and so forth!

This is because once the body is fully formed, the body organs and the cells within them are fully "fixed" and specialized. Once a cell's a pancreas cell, all it can produce by dividing, etc are pancreas cells.

The exceptions here are what are known as stem cells. Stem cells are "undifferentiated" or unspecialized cells that are capable of dividing themselves and still remaining unspecialized. Stem cells are found in fetuses/unborn babies, umbilical cord blood and, to a lesser extent, in adults.

Stem cells from fetuses and cord blood are particularly interesting to medical research. This is because stem cells are vital and effective treatments in combating many forms of human disease, particularly those that affect the body at the cellular level. Leukaemia and other forms of cancer, Parkinson's Disease and spinal cord injuries are some of the areas where research has found stem cells to be particularly useful.

However, research has also shown that only the stem cells found in fetuses or cord blood are really efficient for treating these diseases. Adult stem cells only have limited ability and effectiveness. However, this generates a lot of controversy.

At first glance, it would seem logical to use stem cells from aborted fetuses. But the abortion issue is controversial. Many people believe that abortion is an unethical practice that should only be used in extreme circumstances (e.g. when the mother's life is at risk, as happens with an ectopic pregnancy). Pro-life supporters see abortion as a risk to women's physical and mental health, and a horrific infringement of the rights of an unborn human. The idea of making a profit out of stem cells from the "waste products" (a.k.a. dead unborn babies) is repugnant.

Others are worried that research involving stem cells from fetuses (but not from cord blood) borders on human cloning, an idea that unsettles many.

On the other hand, stem cells are vital for saving lives. This writer has a friend who has five young children but is currently in hospital with leukaemia. Stem cell research will provide the bone marrow she needs for a life-saving transplant. And she's not the only person in the world who will have their life saved by stem cell research.

But stem cells from umbilical cord blood have no controversy surrounding them. Umbilical cords have a purpose during pregnancy, but after birth, they're not needed any more. So harvesting stem cells from cord blood is much more ethical and is a real win-win situation: nobody dies from either abortion or leukaemia.

Around the world, many hospitals are setting up cord blood banks for stem cell research purposes. Cord blood banks for stem cell harvesting and research can be either private or public. Public cord blood banks are better for stem cell research purposes, as privately banked cord blood can only be used by the "depositor", whereas in a public cord blood bank, the person who "deposits" the blood is a donor and the blood can be used by anyone.

Cord blood stem cell research is the way of the future, allowing the benefits of stem cell therapy without any ethical/moral controversies.

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Cite This Page (APA): Frank Vanderlugt. (2009, January 11). Cord Blood and Stem Cell Research. Disabled World. Retrieved September 19, 2021 from www.disabled-world.com/news/research/stemcells/cord-blood-research.php