Betting the future in Las Vegas

Gambling is by nature a risky business. You are placing all your hope into the offshoot chance that for a small “investment” you’ll reap the rewards of a big payout. Whether that is a Lotto ticket, a fast Horse, betting it all on red-36 or a penny stock, it’s all the same. All of them hopefully result in a financial gain. But, what about something potentially better than a materialistic gain?

Welcome to Las Vegas

What exactly happens in Vegas?

I’m talking about the much lauded stem cells. There are a few main locations that Scientists & Doctors can currently harvest stem cells from:

  • Olfactory – which are found in the lining of the nose and are involved in the sense of smell. If they are given the right chemical environment these cells have the same ability as embryonic stem cells to develop into many different cell types.
  • Bone marrow (Hematopoietic) – are found in the bone marrow and give rise to all the blood cell types.
  • Neural (Central Nervous System (CNS)) – Most commonly collected from hair follicles but also found from within various points in the brain. In particular interest to this blog, Aim2Walk and myself is that these cells can generate Schwann cells. A number of experimental studies since 2001 have implanted Schwann cells in an attempt to induce remyelination in M.S. afflicted patients. Also, In the past two decades many studies have demonstrated positive results and potential in a therapy for spinal cord injury
  • Umbilical – Probably the easiest to collect and definitely the best stem cells in that they can easily be taken from the umbilical cord after birth and are able to differentiate into nearly all cells.

It is the last type that has always interested me because of the relative ease in collection, potential and storage. Yes, storage! I always wondered what happens after the Doctor or Nurse collects the stem cell rich fluid. Do hospitals store it deep within their basements or is it sent to mad Scientists who keep it in their vast vats of cloudy liquid-nitrogen?

Well apparently “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” may be more than a city motto. There, outside the lights and action of stereotypical Las Vegas lies Cord Blood America. You will find that for an initial fee of $2075 USD you’ll receive the kit, transportation fees and one years storage. After that it is an additional $125 per year, which in the grand scheme of things, seems rather worth it! There the fluid is tested for any potential contamination, processed and stored until it is (hopefully not) needed.

Now, there are many arguments for and against stem cells which I won’t get into just quite yet as the point of this post was just about my fascination with the storage. But in the meantime, it also appears that other private cord blood banks are expensive, their marketing can be misleading and their practicality is suspect.

There is a strong debate about the future and potential of stem cells which by writing this I may have to cover in the future. As Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program puts it, “If you have the money, and you want to bank your child’s own cord blood, you’re essentially investing in one of two things, One, the possibility that another child in your family will need that cord blood, and that it matches. Or two, that somewhere in the future there will be new developments and new uses for your child’s cord blood — say in regenerative medicine or cell therapy.” So although the future and possibly massive potential of umbilical cord stem cells are unknown, the storage and collection of such cells definitely sounds like a win-win to me!

– Brad

One response

  1. Pingback: Miracle in a Bottle | neurochangers

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