Storing Stem Cells May Save Your Life

Storing Stem Cells May Save Your Life

Medical technology and research advancement is propelling society into such an uncharted world it won’t be long before it resembles scenes from futuristic movies. From joint replacements to growing organs and other body parts in a lab, once considered life debilitating injuries may soon be repaired with a simple trip to an outpatient clinic. 

Much of these advancements can be attributed to stem cell therapy where things like diseases, blindness, and lost limbs can be remedied without invasive surgery. Now, special ‘bio-banks’ are popping up all over to give you the option of storing your and/or your family’s own stem cells, particularly those found in a newborn’s umbilical cord blood. 

Stem Cell Science

The National Institutes of Health describes stem cells, 

“Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions.”

Your body is constantly using stem cells to repair tissue that has become worn out or damaged. This is particularly seen in bone marrow and the colony forming units in your gut. Yet, for some reason, other parts of your body do not benefit from natural stem cell rejuvenation such as your pancreas or heart. 

Discovered over thirty years ago in early mouse models, in 1998 a method was created to harvest stem cells from human embryos and be grown in the laboratory. Known as human embryonic cells, this method was and still is highly debated by right to life activists literally causing the American government to stop funding public research. Although private research continued and in 2006 researchers figured out how to “re-program” adult stem cells taken from skin or other easily accessible body parts. Public funding was re-instated in 2008 and the research has been skyrocketing ever since. 

This is why more people are opting to freeze and store umbilical cords from family newborns as a kind of “back up disc” that may very well be applied to family members within the DNA lineage (although, in many cases, umbilical cord stem cells could probably be used on anyone, families are keeping theirs within the familial circle). 

Life Saving Backup 

Maybe, like many advancements in medicine, stem cells were meant to be discovered to reduce pain and suffering. Researchers theorize that one day, stem cell therapy may very well have you dealing with cancer as a minor annoyance, Alzheimer’s as an easy fix, easily curing vision challenges like macular degeneration and even getting facials that completely reverse aging. Each hospital or health care office will maintain a tank of limitless stem cell ready blood and many medical devices and machines will no longer be needed. 

With these kind of future predictions more and more people have jumped on the save the umbilical cord bandwagon. Business Insider reported that, 

  • Startup Forever Labs freezes and stores stem cells as a “back-up drive for their future selves”.
  • It is now offering a way to bank stem cells from fat stores instead of bone marrow.
  • Stem cells have a range of potential therapeutic uses in conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, since they can turn into any kind of cell.

Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Storage

Like any new applications it can be difficult to sift through the many stem cell storage providers available. Each one may tout a variety of benefits that might include state-of-the-art equipment, a backup power grid, easy access and more. 

The pros have pretty much been laid out but just to review these include:

  • Possibly being able to save a family member’s life
  • Avoiding invasive surgical procedures
  • May be an alternative to bone marrow transplantation
  • Foregoing strong pharmaceuticals and possible side effects
  • Technological stem cell therapy advancements can increase health benefits

The main cons of stem storage include:

  • Can be expensive (approximately $1,400-$3,000 processing fee; $95-$200 annual fee)
  • Umbilical cord blood may not be used for everything
  • According to a 2005 editorial in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the chances your child will need their umbilical cord blood are about 1 in 2,700.
  • Saving the umbilical cord may not be available in some hospitals 


If it is possible to do, storing umbilical cord stem cells or other stem cells could be a good idea. Some feel that future advancements in medicine may negate storage altogether yet others feel banking stem cells now could be an excellent cautionary move. Either way stem cells are here with research changing almost daily. It is science at its best bringing the future of medicine to your doorstep sooner than you may think.