A stem cell is a special kind of cell which can develop into any other kind of cell needed by your body: eye, skin, liver for example. Because of this a great deal of research is going into how these cells could be collected (or grown) and used to repair damage in our bodies.
Stem cells are plentiful in your baby, ubilical cord and placenta. I am frequently approached by a couple of local companies wanting to promote the banking of stems cells at a child’s birth. The idea is to collect stem cells from the ubilical cord after you baby is born and “bank” them for a future when we (may) have developed the ablity to use them.
While it is not something I am prepared to promote, I know that many of you (my clients) are also being approached. These companies stand to profit from the procedure, and it is therefore difficult to feel you are getting the whole story from them.
For those of you who are interested, here is a good Cape Talk/702 podcast I was recently pointed to – it’s well worth a listen.
The following podcast is from Redi Tlhabi’s Health show on 702 Radio, and is an interview with Professor Nicolas Novitzky, head of Haematology at the University of Cape Town.
Stem cell banking podcast
In addition, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide a very good (if rather dry) overview of stem cells and the research which is happening around them here: National Institutes of Health stem cells basics.
The diagram to the right shows the potential power of stems cells which researchers are trying to realise.