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Women are stem cell gold mines

Stem cell research used to be one of the most controversial fields in science because of the practice of using human embryos as source of stem cells. Since then, stem cells have been found in different organs of the body from the umbilical cord, from the bone marrow, even from the skin. Lately, stem cells were also found in the most unexpected places.

Stem cells in menstrual blood

For us women, it`s a monthly inconvenience we have to put up with. For scientists, it`s an exciting new development in the field of stem cells research. I`m referring to menstrual blood stromal cells (MenSCs) which are shed during our monthly period. These cells exhibit a great capacity of self-renewal and multipotency.

Stem cells in breast milk

We already know that breast milk is best for babies. Its nutritional qualities can never be matched by any infant formula since it also provides antibodies that give babies automatic immunity to diseases that their mothers are immune to. What we don’t know, however, is that breast milk may also be a key to treating illnesses like diabetes, spinal injuries and Parkinson’s disease. The latest research lead by Dr Cregan, a molecular biologist at The University of Western Australia, discovered that breast milk contains ‘nestin’ which physically resembles stem cells. This ‘nestin’ from breast milk has a potential of developing into special cells that may form into many types of human tissues.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells normally from embryos that can develop into cells with special functions. Many scientists believe that stem cells can be used to repair damage cells and can be used for treating cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and even paralysis. If nestin and MenSCs indeed behave like stem cells, then, we women are the veritable gold mines of ‘unlimited, noncontroversial, easily collectable, and inexpensive‘ stem cells for medical research. The controversy on the ethics of harvesting of cells from embryos would then be a thing of the past.

Sources:

Eureka Alert, 23 April 2008

Science Alert, 10 February 2008


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