What Conditions are Stem Cells Used to Treat?
Knowing what conditions stem cells are used for helps making the decision on whether or not you should bank your next child’s stem cells from cord blood. This decision is a health investment decision.
Here’s a list of health conditions that improve from stem cells:
- Hip pain/hip injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Cardiomyopathy / Atrial fibrillation
- Joint pain/degenerative joint disease
- High blood pressure
- Cervical spondylosis
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Sinus problems/sinusitis
- Autonomic dysfunction
- Addison disease
- Huntington disease
- Complex regional Pain syndrome
- Sjorgen’s syndrome
- Numbness of the hand and foot
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease / dementia
- ALS / Motor Neuron disease
- Tinnitus / Hearing loss
- COPD/Lung disease
- Macular degeneration
- Chronic fatigue
- Lyme disease
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Stargardt disease
- Torn rotator cuff/shoulder injury
- General health and aging issues
- Autoimmune disease
- Anemia / sickle cell disease
- Pigmentation disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Asthma / Emphysema
- Mitochondrial myopathy
- Spinocerebellar ataxia
- Friedreich’s ataxia
- Congestive heart failure
- Prostate disease
- Essential tremors
- Multiple system atrophy
- Alopecia areata
- Polio / Post polio syndrome
- Esophageal diseases
- Tibial Plateau fracture
- Bone fractures
- High cholesterol
- TMJ disorders
- Muscular acute pain/Muscle pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Retinitis pigmentosa/ vision loss
- Spinal cord injury
- Muscular dystrophy
- Baldness / Hair Loss
- Kidney failure/ kidney disease
- Erectile dysfunction
- Liver disease/cirrhosis
- Charcot Marie Tooth disorder
- Leaky gut
- Meniscus tear/ Knee injury
- Premature ovarian failure
- Optic atrophy
- Herniated disc
What Type of Stem Cells Are Banked?
There are a few different options of what types of stem cells may be banked. For example, you could bank the cord blood, which is the blood from the umbilical cord of a baby you are delivering. Cord blood doesn’t offer a large sample of stem cells but it is thought to be one of the best types of stem cell samples to utilize for health problems. It contains 10 times more cells in number than bone marrow samples. Most importantly, you should know that cord blood rarely carries any infectious diseases.
Another type of stem cell sample is the use of cord blood plus cord tissue. The extra tissue provides a lot of stem cells – however, it is unknown right now what the cord tissue stem cells may be utilized for. That shouldn’t matter to you because you are setting aside stem cells for later, and within the next 20 years, researchers and doctors will know what to use the stem cells for. You could also bank your own adipose tissue, which is a rich source of stem cells.
There are three cell types collected from cord blood and cord blood tissue samples: mesenchymal stem cells, endothelial cells and epithelial cells. These may be collected from the blood vessels, the amniotic epithelium, subamniotic region, perivascular region, and Wharton’s jelly.
Mesenchymal stem cells are used for the following medical conditions:
- Transplant complications
- Neurological disease/injury
- GI diseases
- Heart and blood vessel diseases
- Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases
- Bone and joint disease and injury
Epithelial and endothelial stem cells are used for the treatment of blood vessel damage, diseases that involve the surface of the eye, wounds, burns and ulcers.
How Does the Process of Stem Cell Banking Work?
Stem cell banking is the storage of your stem cell samples in a cryogenically sound tank. The stem cell banks are usually composed of a large warehouse-sized area filled with large tanks. The purpose of the tank is to keep the cells frozen until the time of use. Each of the samples within the tank is kept individually; the samples are not mixed together. They are catalogued in a large database for easy access at a later time.
There are two types of stem cell banks – public and private (family). A public bank is one where someone who has a need for stem cells will put in a request, and all the stem cell samples will be considered for the selection of the best match. A private bank is a collection of stem cell samples that are related to your family.
For example, your nieces and nephews, cousins, and family members store their stem cell samples together. When a health need arises, only the stem cell samples within your family – private – bank are considered. These are most likely to be the best match.
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What is the Cost of Stem Cell Banking?
The cost of stem cell banking varies between the different companies. Generally, there is a processing fee and an annual storage fee. Sometimes companies will offer monthly payment plans for the initial cost plus the cost of storage.
Stem cell banking may or may not have genetic counselors available to you to discuss all the ways that stem cells from different types of tissues are applicable to your entire family. The more knowledgeable on the topic of stem cells, the better you’ll be able to converse with the genetic counselor.
Here’s a chart on a few different stem cell banks and their costs.
What is Banked/Costs
Cord blood or cord blood with cord tissue
1st year fee $2648 but $500-$750 coupons available
Reoccurring fee for subsequent years $279
About 70% of families choose cord tissue alone.
Cord blood or cord blood with cord tissue
Offers genomic sequencing testing which helps determine mutations in single genes or multiple genes pharmacological sensitivity to different drugs, and other clinically relevant information. This is valuable info as it can see if stem cell transplants will help in various health conditions. This test looks at 2500 different disease-associated genes in children under the age of 18 and 6000 disease-associated genes in adults.
Initial cost: $2445
Annual storage fee: $350
Genomic testing: $1900
Cord Banking Collection Process
- Find a stem cell banking company you want to work with. Do your due diligence to make sure the company offers exactly what you want.
- Give the stem cell banking company a call, become a member of their bank and ask for a collection kit. It will be mailed out to you for use on the day of your baby’s delivery. The kit does not require refrigeration.
- On the day of your baby’s birth, give the kit to the health care team that is working with you. They will take the cord sample and enclose it in the kit, ready to be sent out.
- Next call your medical courier to tell them to pick up the kit. Once it’s picked up, it will be mailed to the stem cell banking company.
- The stem cell bank then processes the cord blood and cord blood tissue and enters it into their database. The samples are cryogenically frozen.
- The samples stay safe and sound until you contact them to request them for a health need.
There are a few different methods of collection of the cord blood. First of all you should know that the umbilical cord is traditionally cut at one of three time frames:
1) After birth at the 30 second mark or a little later
2) Between 60 seconds and 3 minutes after birth
3) After the cord stops pulsating
The umbilical cord is delivering stem cells to the baby after birth. So you want your baby to get some of these important stem cells. There’s a term called ‘delayed cord clamping’ that refers to cutting the umbilical cord after it’s had the chance to deliver some of these stem cells to the baby.
However, right now there is no uniform time frame of when exactly the cord should be cut. In the future, studies will be done to determine this answer. One medical study reported that delayed cord blood clamping was useful for babies because it prevented the babies from developing iron deficiency after birth.
We do know that if the baby gets all of the stem cells, then there won’t be enough – or any – left for the future and for the stem cell bank. And that means there won’t be a source of them for the person, should the person end up with a disease that could have been treated with them.
In the future, it’s entirely possible that the cord blood and cord tissue will be supplemented with placenta tissue. At this time there are less than five stem cell banks that are processing placenta tissues and doing research on the power of the stem cells found in the placenta.
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How Do Stem Cell Banks Differ From Each Other?
Stem cell banks may differ from each other in several ways:
- Some use FDA-approved collection bags with anticoagulant added to keep the blood from congealing. Some companies use heparin as the anticoagulant while others use citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD), which has been shown to increase the number of stem cells by 50%. Heparin does not increase the number of stem cells, according to the company, Viacord. However, see this link for a different viewpoint: https://www.cordblood.com/heparin-benefits
- Some store the samples in an FDA-licensed facility.
- Some offer quality guarantees from anywhere between $25,000 and $100,000.
- Some offer referral coupons or discounts on their services of anywhere between $150 and $200. The discounts may be applied to the cost of the annual banking fee.
- Some offer whole genomic sequencing tests for the whole family.
- Some offer assistance to those who have not banked with them for diagnosed conditions.
Some questions you may want to ask the stem cell banks are:
- How long has your company been processing blood samples?
- Are you a private or a public bank?
- What are the advantages of banking with you?
- What types of samples do you process?
- Is there a reason why you do not process other types of stem cell samples?
- How old is your company?
- How many stem cell transplants have you done?
- Do you work directly with OB/GYN doctors?
- Do you work directly with hospitals?
- Is your company involved in any research studies at this time?
- Do you do genetic testing – whole genome sequence testing?
- How do you prepare for potential power outages?
- Will the stem cells stay good in the event of a power outage?
- What are your long-term survival rates of the stem cells?
- What does the guarantee you offer cover?
Utilizing stem cell banking makes good sense. It’s actually better than health insurance when you think about it! And adding the whole genome sequence testing is definitely better than health insurance, too!