A Singaporean-based company has become the first company to offer induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell banking to the public. Scéil, part of the French company Cellectis, launched its service in the UK last July in the hope of attracting wealthy, and healthy, Britons to store their cells for possible future use.
The procedure, which is different from cord blood banking, involves taking a person's skin cells, which are then converted into iPS cells. These are then cryopreserved at minus 180 Celsius and stored at centres in Singapore, Dubai and Switzerland, the company's chief executive André Choulika has explained.
iPS cells are converted from adult cells into a embryonic-like state and have the ability to turn into almost any cells in the body. Researchers predict that stem cells could potentially be used in regenerative therapies to treat disease or repair damaged tissue and organs. However, regenerative techniques based on stem-cell technologies are still under development and have not yet reached therapeutic application with regulatory approval - although some clinical trials using iPS cells for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration are now underway in Japan (see BioNews 711).
'Scéil offers people the best possible chance in the future', said Mr Choulika. 'People should be able to "live young" no matter how old they grow. We're offering the potential for people to use their cells for their cure as soon as regenerative medicine treatments become available'.
Scéil's promotional material on its website states 'Don't delay, back yourself up today' and Mr Choulika is encouraging healthy people to start banking their cells earlier, rather than later.
'As time passes, your DNA is gradually altered. In order to have better stem cells, it's better to store them at an early, healthier stage', he said. 'If you want to preserve your genetic inheritance and background, it's better to freeze time immediately in the form of stem cells'.
Mr Choulika also explained the service is not for people who need immediate treatment, although he predicts we will begin to see the benefits of regenerative medicine in the next five years. Also, at a one-off investment of $60,000 - or around £40,000 - and an annual maintenance charge of $500 starting from the third year, Scéil's clientele is likely to be wealthy.
'We believe it's going to be very popular with a certain class of people who have everything they want but cannot go against ageing', said Mr Choulika. 'This is expensive, so only reserved for a certain class of people who can afford it'.
Mr Choulika explained the UK was chosen for the launch because it was able to operate in its regulatory environment; in France the service would not currently be permitted.