Stem cell revolution can defeat Alzheimer’s

June 5th, 2011 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 5 (IANS) Healthy adults will be able to boost their chances of surviving cancer and diseases such as Alzheimer’s by freezing stem cells taken from their blood.

A British company has been granted a licence to extract the cells, so that anyone can now pay to store them in the hope that they will one day help to cure fatal conditions.

Until now, it has only been possible to bank stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood and embryos left over from fertility treatment.

The new system, approved last week by the Human Tissue Authority, involves a nurse visiting a ‘client’ at home and taking two egg-cups of blood by syringe, as in a simple blood test, the Daily Mail reports.

Glasgow-based company Pharmacells charges 2,495 pounds - equivalent to the cost of storing umbilical cord blood. Another package means paying 1,695 pounds upfront, followed by 199 pounds-a-year for storage.

The cells are stored at minus 80 degree Celsius for up to 20 years. The advantage of banking your cells is that your immune system will not react against them.

It is also most effective to use cells which are younger and healthier, because ideally they should be frozen before illness and age set in.

Scientists believe stem cells hold the key to developing cures for a huge range of fatal conditions.

They have regenerative properties because they have the ability to turn into any kind of cell in tissue, organs, nerves or bone.

However, the method has its share of critics.

Irving Weissman, director of the US Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University in California, warned that those paying for private umbilical cord banking are wasting their money because they can produce only certain cell types.

He said: “They don’t make brain, heart or skeletal muscle, despite what various people claim.”

Others question whether stem cells will be of any use at all after decades in a deep freeze.

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