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Stem Cell Banking: Insurance for the Future?

P. Neslihan Taşlı, PhD

P. Neslihan Taşlı, PhD

Stem Cell and Exosome Researcher

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Hello new and excited parents and curious readers! Today we will take a look at stem cell banking together. Yes, it may seem like a topic straight out of science fiction novels, but could it really be the health insurance of the future? Let's explore together!

Prepare Your Babies for the Future: What is Stem Cell Banking?

Get ready for an information bombardment under this heading! Stem cell banking is a way of safeguarding your baby’s health against future uncertainties. Let’s go over what stem cell banking is, how it works, and why it might be important, explaining to new parents about protecting their babies against future health risks.

For our new readers, a quick recap of what stem cells are – they are special cells in our bodies with magical touches, capable of transforming into different tissues and renewing themselves. There are two main types: embryonic stem cells (derived from embryos) and adult stem cells (isolated from adult tissues). The focus of this article is broadly to answer lingering questions about stem cell banking and to inform those interested in the subject.

Stem cell banking: It involves individuals preserving their own stem cells for future medical needs by freezing them. This process is typically done shortly after birth or at various ages. Stem cells obtained from various sources such as umbilical cord, bone marrow, fat tissue, and dental pulp are frozen and stored in facilities specially designed for long-term storage. This way, these cells can be used for medical treatments when needed in the future (1). 

Now, let’s take a look at the “superhero” tissues that emerge from stem cell banking.

  • Umbilical cord, separated from the placenta after birth, is a tissue rich in stem cells and can be used in the treatment of various diseases such as blood disorders, immune system diseases, and nervous system diseases (2).
  • Bone marrow, a tissue found inside bones where blood cells are produced, provides stem cells used in the treatment of blood diseases like leukemia and thalassemia (3).
  • Fat tissue, responsible for energy storage in the body, offers stem cells used in the treatment of various diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, and wound healing (4).
  • Dental pulp, a tissue inside the tooth that sustains its vitality, provides stem cells used in the treatment of nervous system diseases and gum diseases (5).

When stem cells are properly stored, they can maintain their vitality for many years. Among the tissues that are currently popular, blood and dental pulp are often included. However, new potentials are being explored, such as high-potential stem cells obtained from newborn foreskin (6), stem cells obtained from teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons (7), and stem cells obtained from nasal septal cartilage (8) often removed for aesthetic reasons. The common feature of these tissues is that they are waste tissue materials and do not require an additional procedure. Especially with advancing technology, it is believed that more tissues could be potential sources in the future.

What is the current status of stem cell banking worldwide?

If we look at countries globally that emphasize stem cell banking, the United States comes first. In the U.S., there are numerous private and public stem cell banks, with an estimated 200 or more. Most of these banks are private and store family stem cells like umbilical cord blood.

In Germany, there are around 40 stem cell banks, regulated by the government, ensuring the quality of stored stem cells is rigorously controlled. France also has widespread stem cell banking, with about 30 stem cell banks, both private and public. In the United Kingdom, there are numerous stem cell banks (around 20), and the process is regulated by the government.

China also has a significant presence in stem cell banking. Though the exact number is uncertain, it’s estimated that there are more than 100 stem cell banks in China, both private and public.

It’s important for institutions involved in stem cell banking to adhere to international standards. These institutions typically ensure expert staff, suitable facilities, monitoring systems, and strict quality control standards.

How is stem cell banking done in Turkey? 

Well, here’s the crux of the matter. In Turkey, there are approximately 10 family stem cell banks and 3 public stem cell banks. Stem cell banking in Turkey is regulated by the Ministry of Health. Family stem cell banks need permission from the Ministry of Health and must adhere to specific standards. On the other hand, public stem cell banks are directly operated by the Ministry of Health.

One question that individuals and families receiving banking services often have is how cells are preserved and what criteria determine their vitality. The answer to this question can be explained as follows: Cells are usually preserved by freezing in special containers containing liquid nitrogen. Their vitality and health status are regularly checked through laboratory tests, including parameters like cell count, division capabilities, and genetic stability.

Stem Cell Banking: Is It for Everyone?

Stem cell banking may offer a potential solution in treating genetic diseases, organ transplants, and other serious health problems. However, it should be evaluated based on individual preferences and health histories.

Health Insurance of the Future

Stem cell banking may provide a potential safeguard against future diseases. However, not everyone needs to use this service. Risk factors and genetic history are essential factors influencing this decision.

In addition, stem cell banking is still an evolving field in Turkey. The potential benefits and risks of stem cell treatments are still being researched. The cost of the stem cell banking process varies depending on the bank.

Common Misconceptions About Stem Cell Banking

Now, let’s address common misconceptions about stem cell banking:

“Everyone Should Opt for Stem Cell Banking”: Not true! Stem cell banking should be evaluated based on individual preferences, health history, and family planning. Everyone’s needs are different.

“Stem Cell Banking Is Done Only with Embryonic Stem Cells”: False! Stem cell banking generally involves adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cell banking can lead to ethical and legal issues and is usually not used.

“Stem Cell Banking Is Only Suitable for Children”: Not true! Stem cells can be a potential source for everyone, including elderly individuals. The quality of stem cells can be crucial as age advances.

“Stem Cell Banking Can Cure Any Disease” False! The claim that stem cells can cure all diseases is not accurate. While they have potential in some cases, it’s not a guaranteed cure for every disease.

“Stem Cell Banking Is Completely Safe”: False! Like any medical procedure, stem cell banking carries risks. Being aware of potential risks and complications is crucial.

“Stem Cells Can Generate an Unlimited Number of Organs”: False! Stem cells do not have the capacity to create organs in an unlimited manner. This process is still a complex area under research.

“Stem Cell Banking Is Expensive and Inaccessible”: False! While stem cell banking can be costly, many institutions offer payment plans and financial support options. Additionally, some banks may reduce costs through campaigns and promotions.

“Stem Cell Banking Can Prevent Any Genetic Disease”: False! Stem cell banking does not completely eliminate genetic diseases. However, in some cases, it might assist in their treatment.

Correcting these misconceptions can provide a more realistic view of stem cell banking and help individuals make informed decisions.

In conclusion, stem cell banking can be considered as a form of insurance against future health problems with scientific and medical advancements. However, it is crucial for individuals to consider their personal situations and needs when making this decision. Remember, making informed and knowledgeable decisions about your health can provide significant advantages in the future.

References

  1. Thirumala, S., Goebel, W. S., & Woods, E. J. (2009). Clinical grade adult stem cell banking. Organogenesis5(3), 143-154.
  2. Butler, M. G., & Menitove, J. E. (2011). Umbilical cord blood banking: an update. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics28, 669-676.
  3. Carnevale, G., Pisciotta, A., Riccio, M., De Biasi, S., Gibellini, L., Ferrari, A., … & de Pol, A. (2016). Optimized cryopreservation and banking of human bone-marrow fragments and stem cells. Biopreservation and Biobanking14(2), 138-148.
  4. Choudhery, M. S., Mahmood, R., & Harris, D. T. (2022). Stem cell banking of adipose tissue. Current Stem Cell Reports8(4), 174-183.
  5. Khaseb, S., Orooji, M., Pour, M. G., Safavi, S. M., Eghbal, M. J., & Rezai Rad, M. (2021). Dental stem cell banking: Techniques and protocols. Cell Biology International45(9), 1851-1865.
  6. Esteban-Vives, R., Ziembicki, J., Sun Choi, M., Thompson, R. L., Schmelzer, E., & Gerlach, J. C. (2019). Isolation and characterization of a human fetal mesenchymal stem cell population: exploring the potential for cell banking in wound healing therapies. Cell transplantation28(11), 1404-1419.
  7. Newaskar, V. (2013). Banking stem cells isolated from tooth germ of human third molar: A literature review. Clinical Dentistry (0974-3979)7(5).
  8. Bagher, Z., Asgari, N., Bozorgmehr, P., Kamrava, S. K., Alizadeh, R., & Seifalian, A. (2020). Will tissue-engineering strategies bring new hope for the reconstruction of nasal septal cartilage?. Current Stem Cell Research & Therapy15(2), 144-154.

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Disclaimer
The information and statements on our website are not intended to guide individuals towards medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult with your doctor for medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. The contents are shared for informational purposes only, derived from scientific studies prepared by EMC Medya Yayıncılık Ticaret Ltd. Şti.’s researchers, consultants, and authors/scientists, as well as compilations from publicly available publications. Our texts do not contain health statements related to medical diagnosis or treatment

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