Stem cells are considered the “master cells” of the body. These immature cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different types of cells that make up our blood, tissue, organs, and immune system.1 Stem cells also act as an internal repair system by repeatedly dividing to replenish other cells as they die or are damaged.1
Where can you obtain stem cells come from?
Stem cells may be found in many places, including the bone marrow, cord blood and tissue, and placental blood and tissue.2 These stem cells are known as multipotent stem cells, which means they can give rise to multiple types of cells.3 The controversy around stem cell research was sparked by a different kind of stem cell, known as an embryonic stem cell.4 The stem cells collected from the cord and placenta are not embryonic and are non-controversial.
What are the different types of stem cells?
The two main types of stem cells are hematopoetic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells.
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs):5
- Differentiate into any type of blood cell, including white and red blood cells and platelets
- Are found in umbilical cord blood, placental blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood
- Have been used as medical treatment for over 25 years and for up to 80 different diseases, particularly for cancers of the blood6
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs):7
- Can differentiate into nerve cells as well as bone, cartilage, muscle, and fat
- Are found in placental tissue, where they are genetically unique to the mother
- Are found in umbilical cord tissue, where they are a genetic match to the baby
- Are currently being researched for the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, stroke damage, and spinal cord injury8