Friday, June 1, 2007



Stem cell banking hit the news recently as Richard Branson announced the latest Virgin venture, Virgin Health Bank, a company that offers new parents the opportunity to preserve cells from the blood of their newborn child's umbilical cord. Stem cells are the cells from which all other cells form - everything from the teeth and skin to bone and the heart.

Although the research is still in its infancy, many in the industry believe that stem cells are the future of medicine. 'Stem cells literally have the ability to turn back time,' says medical scientist, Dr Cuross Bakhtiar of London's Harley Street Cosmetic.

'They have the potential to regenerate blood cells damaged by heart attacks and even improve sight damaged by retinal degradation.'

Dr Donald Gibb, an obstetrician in private practise in London's Harley Street, has seen the number of parents looking to bank stem cells increase over the past few years.

'For several years now I've made my patients aware of the possibility of banking stem cells when their child is born and I would say roughly 20 per cent of them do so.' He believes this number could well increase further.

If you missed out as a child but want your own stem cells banked, this can be done, although those found in adult bodies, in various locations including the brain, skin and liver, are thought to be less potent that those taken from umbilical blood.

Various cell banks such as Cells Limited, based in Middlesex offer adults the option of storing their own stem cells, usually syringed under local anaesthetic from the bone marrow of the hip and then frozen.

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