MSCs: Characteristics, Advantages Over Other Stem Cells, & Applications
MSCs, HSCs, and Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord
When your unborn baby is developing, he or she is made up of tiny cells called stem cells. These stem cells are the building blocks of life. They become your baby’s heart, skin, hair, nose, and everything else that makes your baby, your baby. When your little one is born, a reserve of these stem cells remain in your newborn’s umbilical cord. These remaining cells can be used to protect your baby and your family, if a future medical need arises.
Umbilical cords contain two types of stem cells – hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). HSCs stem cells are programmed to become red and white blood cells. Medical science has found ways to use their natural abilities to treat over 80 serious conditions, like leukemia.
MSCs Unique Characteristics & Abilities
MSCs, on the other hand, develop into muscle cells, bone cells, cartilage cells, fat cells, and more. They are making headlines in regenerative medicine, holding the promise for future treatments for many conditions. They are considered essential to the future of regenerative medicine for six reasons:
- They are unspecialized cells with gene activation ability to differentiate into multiple cell types.
- They are uniquely able to regenerate, allowing for multiple uses during treatment.
- They can be manipulated outside of a living organism and under appropriate conditions to become several cell types.
- They have the ability to regulate immune cells and functions.
- They secrete multiple bioactive molecules to assist in the recovery of injured cells.
- They remain in the sites of inflammation following the injury of tissue in the body.
A Brief History of MSCs
MSCs were discovered by Dr. Alexander Friedenstein in 1968 and the first one was isolated from the human body just six years later. Clinical trials involving MSCS started in 1995 and recently have grown tremendously. Currently, there are over 300 registered clinical trials treating medical conditions such as diabetes and spinal cord injuries. Pre-clinical research shows the effects of them in both immune and non-immune diseases. In immune disorder therapy, they are powerful because they have the capacity to regulate the body’s defensive responses. In recent years, the research, clinical trials, and technology surrounding MSCs has generated a great amount of enthusiasm in both stem cells and regenerative medicine.
Doctors have extracted MSCs from bone marrow, adipose tissue, fetal liver, muscle, lung, and umbilical cord tissue. However, the umbilical cord is the most vital source of stem cells because they preserve the character of early embryonic cells and are found in much higher concentrations. In the umbilical cord, the MSCs can be found in both the cord blood and in the tissue from Wharton’s Jelly, a gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord.
Possible MSCs Applications
Both HSCs and MSCs from a newborn’s umbilical cord can be collected, processed, and stored for future use. There are no risks to you or your baby to collect them. Today, HSCs from cord blood are being banked by an increasing number of expecting parents. Many are also banking MSCs in the hopes that clinical trials exploring their use in treating certain symptoms of autism, cerebral palsy, burns, and over 350 other conditions will lead to more medical breakthroughs. Although the research for MSCs is there, they are not yet FDA approved in the United States. However, in other parts of the world, they are becoming a part of regular medical practices. It is not a matter of if MSCs will do the same in the United States, but when.
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