Stem cells are known to be collected from a few different locations but the most notable places are the bone marrow and umbilical cord. Both locations hold a wealth of stem cells but are very different from almost every angle. From the way the cells are harvested to how the stem cells themselves act are totally different from each other. Though, another location of high stem cell activity is in the embryo, which carries a lot of ethical issues. This is why other forms of stem cell collection are growing in popularity, allowing for more research and better ways to treat diseases.
Stem cells are cells that can turn into almost any other cell. Finding places where they can be harvested in great numbers without the use of morally questionable methods can make them extremely useful and the pinnacle of medicine’s future. For now, they’re often still seen in the testing phase but are being used by people around the world with very positive results. Most stem cells used in treatment or research are either from the umbilical cord or bone marrow, so here are a few differences about each.
Umbilical Stem Cells
Umbilical stem cells, often just referred to as cord blood stem cells, are found in the umbilical cord after a birth. Though embryonic stem cells were popular for their high content of very active stem cells, the next best source was found to be the umbilical cord as there are still a lot of stem cells left over from the baby’s development. There is no pain involved and no special procedure. Instead of disposing of the cord after birth, it and the blood inside are donated for stem cell use. In other words, harvesting them is very easy.
Use & Preservation
Because the cord blood is so closely related to embryonic stem cells, they’re able to grow and form more cells at an exponential rate. This allows them to be used with more effectiveness for whatever they may be treating. The stem cells of this type can also be cryogenically frozen for at least a decade if not longer.
However, there is a small 11 percent chance that rejection of the stem cells can occur. There is also a risk of carrying over genetic diseases found in the baby’s immune system. They’re also dependent on only being collected as a one-time supply even if they are largely available in maternity wards everywhere. All in all, while there are a lot of good things to say about this process, using just cord stem cells is not a fool-proof method of stem cell use.
Regardless, it’s easier to make matches with cord stem cells because of the lower number of requirements. They can adapt as they’re still young and full of potential, proliferating as much as possible in the space provided. This is possibly why there is such a risk of rejection, though, as the adult ones have already grown into something we can easily identify.
Bone Marrow Stem Cells
Bone marrow stem cells are often taken from the breastbone, skull, hips, ribs and spine of the donor. This method requires a painful procedure where the donor must go under general anesthesia for the task to be performed. Needless to say, this type is a lot more trouble to gather but is still extremely useful and has some advantages. That said, this method has found some popularity because no stem cells regarding babies is involved. All stem cells collected are from adults, but this brings about its own problems.
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Use & Preservation
Blood marrow stem cells have much less growing potential as the cord variety so isn’t as effective. In fact, cord stem cells are regarded as better for almost every procedure except when rejection is involved. Where cord stem cells have an 11 percent chance of rejection from the host, blood marrow stem cells lower that chance to just two percent. As such, these kind are highly preferred for graft rejection procedures.
They are not entirely without bad omens, though. Latent viral infections in donors is very common, present in over 50 percent of cases. Plus, these types of stem cells can be frozen for later use but don’t have the same shelf life as the cord variety. Blood marrow stem cells are best used immediately or within a few hours after being taken from the donor. Still, they carry no risk of a genetic disease like the cord stem cells do.
While there are limits, blood marrow stem cells have a lot of historical data to back up how they can be used in different situations. Not to mention that they can be collected from the same donor more than once, allowing someone who matches with multiple people being able to give multiple times. They may have less development potential but they are great for the uses they’re needed for.
Is One Better Than the Other?
In most cases, cord stem cells are better than their blood marrow cousins. They can be used in more cases and are donated easily. However, blood marrow stem cells have a much less chance of rejection. Another point in their favor is that the blood marrow stem cells can be taken from the original patient directly, using their own stem cells to combat other problems they’re facing. This reduces the chance of rejection completely and takes away the need to find a match, however, with the side-effects of donating blood marrow stem cells being troublesome, this often isn’t an option for some patients, anyway.
Both also have their drawbacks. Blood marrow stem cells put the donor through a lot of trouble during and after the donation process and are also not preferred to be used in most cases. Meanwhile, cord stem cells have a much higher chance of rejection even if that chance is still rather low. Really, it all depends on what needs to be treated, the patient’s medical history, and the availability of stem cells at the time. Bone marrow stem cells are in everyone, after all, even if a matching donor would have to be found first.
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