The question of whether or not it’s ethical to harvest embryonic stem cells has plagued scientists for many years. On the one hand, the cells have the potential to treat or even cure devastating diseases and injuries. On the other hand, they can only be obtained by destroying a human embryo.
According to a ScienceDaily article, researchers at the Salk Institute and the Center for Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain, have determined that “umbilical cord blood cells can successfully be reprogrammed to function like embryonic stem cells, setting the basis for the creation of a comprehensive bank of tissue-matched, cord blood-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for off-the-shelf applications.”
What this means is that an existing store of more than 400,000 cord blood units banked along with immunological information stem cells is ready and waiting for action. The cells could be used for bone marrow transplants, or even for treatment of disease or spinal cord injury.
Today, there are still issues to be resolved. Cord blood cells can give rise to immunological responses or even cancers. But researchers are working to minimize risk and maximize possibilities. In the long run, this new approach to stem cell production may be the key to saving and improving lives.
Photo courtesy of Enzo, via Wikimedia Commons