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The proliferating stem cell banking industry is built on a riveting concept: Preserve stem cells while they're most potent until they are needed later in life to potentially fight disease.
What started out as a market for banking stem cells from a baby's umbilical cord blood and tissue is mushrooming into an industry that now includes the preservation of adult stem cells. Those mature stem cells could one day be used in future regenerative medicine therapies. That opens a new chapter of ethical, legal and social implications that Mayo Clinic researchers explore in a paper published in NPJ Regenerative Medicine.
"Within the next five years, economic reports estimate that the adult stem cell banking market will grow to over $13 billion dollars in the U.S.," says Zubin Master, Ph.D., a bioethicist for Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine and lead author on the study. "With this new industry come ethical considerations that should be considered in order to promote the responsible translation of regenerative medicine."
Regenerative medicine is an emerging area of practice that is treating disease by replacing or repairing diseased cells, tissues and organs. The Center for Regenerative Medicine sponsored this ethical analysis as part of its objective of bringing validated regenerative procedures to daily clinical care.
Cord blood is rich in newborn hematopoietic cells capable of multiplying and differentiating into almost any type of cell or tissue in the body. These cells form the bedrock of the immune system and have the potential for healing. Stem cells from cord blood and tissue are approved for use in more than 70 diseases, ranging from blood cancers to metabolic conditions and immune system disorders.
Why stem cell banking?
Based on the success of cord blood banking, private companies, hospitals and academic centers are exploring the preservation of adult stem cells, such as mesenchymal stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells. Mesenchymal cells are derived from sources such as fat tissue or bone marrow and have been used in research for conditions like spinal cord injury. Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells that are reprogrammed to an unspecialized state and can be used to make various cell types to treat disease. At present, these sources of stem cells are used only in research or experimental treatments.
Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.
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