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Steps Involved in Stem Cell Collection and Banking
This article explains importance of stem cells, procedure of collecting them and how they are stored in a stem cell bank.

The Stem cell's ability to repair, renew and regenerate is the basis for all the researches in the field of stem cell therapy. This unique characteristic of stem cell is very attractive and the research and findings in this field prove to create a revolution in medicine. In recent times, the knowledge on stem cells, its features, availability and its significance in treating diseases created awareness among people enabling them to adopt stem cell collection and preservation techniques.

The collection of stem cells depends on the source from where the cells are harvested. Based on its source stem cells are classified as embryonic stem cell, fetal stem cell, umbilical cord stem cell and adult stem cell. Stem cells are utilized for treating diseases by altering its characteristics of undifferentiated to well differentiated specific cell type under controlled condition.

The cells resulting from the division of the zygote are called the embryonic stem cells because of its totipotency to develop into all kinds of specific cell type. The embryonic stem cells are harvested from the embryos in vitro by adopting a technique called in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization is a method used widely in treating infertile couples. In this method the sperm is inserted into the egg under controlled conditions in a laboratory environment. The use of in vitro embryos for harvesting stem cells is a very strict procedure which is done only by obtaining formal consent from the couple whose egg cell and sperm cell are used in developing the embryo. The embryonic stem cells, once harvested are subjected to cell culture technique. In this technique, the research fellow or the scientist decides the specific media and other environmental and physiological factors for the cells to grow into well defined, specific cell type. The advantages of using embryonic stem cells in a research is that they are fresh cells, not interrupted by any physical, chemical or environmental condition and mostly devoid of any chromosomal abnormality. The main restriction in using embryonic stem cells for treating a disease is its uncontrolled cell division which may cause cancer.

The umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells. The umbilical cord is the connection between the mother and the baby through which nutrients are supplemented from the placenta to the baby in the womb. At the time of delivery, baby is separated from the mother by cutting the umbilical cord. In the event of collecting the cord blood for stem cells, the cord between the placenta and the baby is clamped and an efficiently trained person draws the blood from the umbilical cord by inserting a needle. The collected blood is transferred from the needle to the sample vial and sent for storage. Sterile conditions are maintained during this procedure of collection to avoid any contamination of the sample. People with a family history of known genetic diseases or other metabolic diseases can preserve their baby’s cord blood which can be used effectively in future treatment of various diseases. The collected blood can be stored as such or the stem cells can be harvested by separating procedures and stored. The family members, the baby itself and siblings are highly benefited by storing umbilical cord stem cells.

Adult stem cells are the existing cells in various tissues in adult body. The cells in bone marrow, muscle tissue, skin cell and nerve cell are some of the source for adult stem cell. The collection of stem cells from bone marrow equips a surgical procedure in which the subject from whom the stem cells are extracted is anesthetized first. Then a needle is inserted into the bone marrow at a selected site to draw the stem cells. Bone marrow transplantation is a widely used treatment method in treating various disorders. Collection of adult stem cells from blood is done by drawing blood intravenously from one hand and passing it through a processor which separates the stem cells from the blood. Once the stem cells are separated the blood is allowed to re-enter the body intravenously through the other hand. The restrictions to adult stem cells are any present chromosomal abnormality, or damage to the cells due to various physiological and environmental condition. In comparison to the embryonic stem cells, the division of adult stem cells can be controlled to an extent and hence the risk of acquiring cancer while treating for a disease is minimized to an extent.

Apart from these discussed stem cell types extensive research have lead to the discovery of stem cells in amniotic fluid and menstrual blood. Deriving stem cells from the amniotic fluid, rules out the ethics in using embryos for stem cell extraction. Also the stem cells from menstrual blood and its application in treating arthritis, cardiac disease has been proved in a research.

Though the collection procedure differs depending on the site from where the cells are extracted, the storage method is common(also called banking). The collected samples are cryopreserved using liquid nitrogen. There are many emerged and emerging stem cell banks rendering services to the people by collecting and preserving the stem cells. The key in resolving various disorders lies in the preserved stem cell in a stem cell bank.
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