There is another source of stem cells which is hardly ever mentioned in the news and is currently being discarded on a daily basis. It has no moral, ethical, legal or religious objections to use and it has been transplanted safely over 6,000 times to date to treat 45 different diseases. This source of stem cells is human umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood can be collected at every birth with no risk or pain to the mother or baby. Once collected cord blood is processed using tried and tested technology and can be frozen in liquid nitrogen for many years. Current applications of these stem cells are in the treatment of leukaemia, related blood disorders and the repair of the bone marrow following high dose chemotherapy for cancer.
Perhaps the most important aspect of cord blood is that it contains mesenchymal stem cells capable of producing many cell types including neuronal and muscle tissue. These cells have an availability and potential far greater than embryonic or testicular stem cells and we must focus our time, energy, resources and expertise on the full utilization of these priceless stem cells. Cord blood stem cells are currently being assessed in a clinical trial in Canada in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The umbilical cord itself also contains stem cells capable of producing a range of tissue types, most notably bone tissue.
If stem cell biology is to advance we must begin to collect, store and carry out research on as much cord blood as possible. We have a readily available source of stem cells with massive potential which is currently, for whatever reason, being ignored by researchers, media and politicians alike. We must stop talking about esoteric sources of stem cells and focus on cord blood stem cells as the source of stem cells for current therapeutic applications and ground breaking therapies of the future.