Did you know that you can have some of your stem cells extracted, grown, and then stored indefinitely? You can, thanks to a small but growing number of startups now offering stem cell banking. The companies are giving hope to people who believe that stem cell therapy will one day increase human longevity and help us maintain good health at the same time.
Stem cell banking is really not a new concept. Parents have been banking umbilical cord blood for years now. Today’s startups are looking at something completely different, though. Rather than banking material from babies, they are offering stem cell banking for adults. One particular startup was recently featured in an August piece published by TechCrunch.
This startup will harvest stem cell material, grow it, and then store it for customers. The company charges $2,500 for the initial procedure plus an additional $250 annual storage fee. Interested customers can pay a single $7,000 fee for lifetime storage.
What to Do with the Cells
TechCrunch reports that the startup is FDA approved for harvesting and storing adult stem cells. They are not approved for any sort of stem cell modification. Therefore, their services are essentially storage only. It would be up to you to find a use for your stem cells in the future.
Autologous adult stem cells are already used to treat leukemia patients. Doctors can extract bone marrow material, process that material in order to concentrate the stem cells, and then inject the processed material back into bone marrow. The treatment has been used to address leukemia for decades.
Growing numbers of doctors are also using autologous stem cells for orthopedic injuries. For example, doctors trained by Utah-based Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) know how to use stem cell therapy to treat sports injuries, osteoarthritis, and other musculoskeletal problems. Having said all that, one does not need banked stem cells for these procedures. So, what’s the point? What to do with stem cells that are banked?
Future Uses Still Unknown
Any customer thinking of spending thousands of dollars on stem cell banking needs to understand one simple fact: companies offering this service are banking on future uses for stored material. Stem cell banking is offered based in the knowledge that adult stem cells lose some of their volume and function as people age. The idea is to bank stem cells as a young, healthy adult in case research ever find a way to use those cells to improve your health in the future.
Current research is looking at ways to use stem cell therapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s suppose that science comes up with a successful treatment that is made available to the masses ten years from now. A patient who had banked healthy stem cells at age 40 might eventually be able to use that material as part of an Alzheimer’s treatment at age 70.
Anyone who follows stem cell therapy research knows that the future of such therapies looks bright. But the key operating word here is ‘future’. Stem cell therapy at the current time is limited to leukemia treatments and orthopedic injuries. But the more we learn about how stem cells work, the closer we get to some pretty impressive breakthroughs.
Stem cell banking is banking on those breakthroughs eventually becoming reality. That leads to one question all of us may find ourselves attempting to answer in the next 5 to 10 years: is it worth spending the money to bank some of our stem cells in the hope that future applications will make for a longer and higher quality life?