Stem cells are the building blocks of the human body. They can replicate or regenerate themselves and even differentiate into any of the 220 different specialised cells in the body. Due to the immense potential of stem cells to replace diseased or aging cells, or even to be used in the 3D printing of tissues and organs for transplantation, some scientist believe humans will soon live to the ripe old age of 200.
Impossible? A study conducted by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh, USA, found that fast-aging elderly mice injected with stem cells from younger mice lived three times their normal lifespan. In human terms, this can be compared to an 80-year-old living to the age of 200. In light of the astonishing advances in regenerative medicine, stem cell transplants to replace aging or diseased cells, and the amount of clinical trials currently underway, it is likely that our lifespans will increase at least beyond the current world record of 122 years.
Blood-forming stem cells can be sourced from bone marrow, umbilical and placental cord blood, or peripheral blood – the cellular components of blood, consisting of red and white blood cells as well as platelets – which are taken directly from the bloodstream. While each is an immensely valuable source of blood-forming stem cells, they differ in collection method, type and quantities of cells, as well as treatment outcomes across blood-related and non-blood-related diseases.
In most cases, bone marrow transplants require a perfect tissue match and the chance of finding a bone marrow donor may be less than 1 in a 100 000. Cord blood stem cells don’t require a perfect match, are readily available for transplants and it costs less to store them than it does to harvest a donor’s bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.
Umbilical cord blood contains high concentrations of blood-forming stem cells – blood stem cells that can only be sourced immediately after birth. The unique life-saving potential of cord blood stem cells is undeniable as they have been used to treat over 80 blood-related diseases, including various blood cancers, blood disorders, immune deficiencies, inherited metabolic disorders and autoimmune diseases.
It is estimated that the chances of needing a stem cell transplant in a lifetime of 70 years, is one in 217. With CryoSave, cord blood stem cell collection is a quick, painless and non-invasive procedure completed within 10-15 minutes after birth, after which stem cells are cryopreserved for future use, turning what used to be considered medical waste into much more than a bag of stem cells.