Stem cells are the ‘building blocks’ of life. They have the remarkable potential to regenerate into different cell types in the body during early life and growth. Additionally, in many tissues they serve as an internal repair system, dividing limitlessly to replenish other cells over a lifetime. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain undifferentiated or become another differentiated type of cell with a more specialised function such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell or a brain cell.
Stem cells can replicate any tissue in the human body. This feature makes them particularly critical in the regeneration of diseased and damaged tissues and organs. Also, expectant parents can now also use umbilical cord and umbilical cord blood banking to collect and preserve stem cells. Umbilical cord banking helps families to protect their kids from various child diseases in India.
They are found in various sources in the body including umbilical cord, bone marrow, peripheral blood and skin among many. Out of these, the umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells, both hematopoietic (blood forming) and mesenchymal (non-blood forming). Hematopoietic stem cells are derived from the umbilical cord blood whereas mesenchymal stem cells are derived from the umbilical cord tissue. These are potent cells and have a long-term proliferative capacity compared to other adult stem cells.
Although most cells in the body, such as heart cells or skin cells are committed to conduct a specific function, stem cells are uncommitted and remain uncommitted, until they receive a signal to develop into a specialised cell. Their proliferative and self-renewal capacity, combined with their ability to become specialised, makes stem cells unique, and a great asset for umbilical cord blood banking and medical sciences.