Why are human embryonic stem cells so special?
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) offer a unique opportunity to potentially treat many currently incurable diseases such as Alzheimer's, spinal cord injury, diabetes or heart insufficiency. This is thought to be possible because these cells have the ability to grow into virtually any cell type of the human body. In some cases, scientists are already able to grow replacement cells in the laboratory to substitute for the cells which are destroyed during a disease process, such as heart cells or neurons. In the next step, scientists are hard at work to find out if and how those cells can be used to cure diseases. For this purpose, the first clinical trials are under way in the U.S. and abroad. It is not just severe diseases where hESCs could be extremely helpful, but also other applications such as growing your own red blood cells for potential transfusion for surgery, growing pigment cells of the skin for extra protection if you suffer from burns, or replacing aging skin cells.
Create & bank your own embryonic stem cells from your discard frozen IVF embryos
As an in vitro fertilization (IVF) patient, you may have one or more discard frozen embryos which you do not plan to use for pregnancy attempts because they are e.g. of inferior quality or your family planning is complete. Furthermore, you may not be interested in keeping these embryos in storage any longer. In this case, there is now the possibility of growing your discard frozen embryos into human embryonic stem cells. Similar to banking umbilical cord blood samples, those hESCs are then stored exclusively for your future use. As far as science presently knows, your hESCs will last forever when stored in liquid nitrogen at -320 degrees Fahrenheit.
How can my embryonic stem cells be of use to me and my family in the future?
The hESCs created for you would be approximately 50% genetically identical to you, your partner or your child and, to a lesser extent, to other blood relatives. Furthermore, because hESCs are created from your embryos at such an early point of development, their immune identity is thought to be not fully established. This immunological immaturity may be retained to some extent even when the hESCs are grown into certain specialized organ cells. This may enable your or your family member's body to accept cells grown from your hESCs with little or no immunosuppressive medication which is needed for virtually all conventional organ transplantation, such as liver transplants. This is particularly true when the cells are transplanted to a part of the body which has naturally little exposure to the immune system, such as the eye for retina repair. Other individuals unrelated to you may also be able to accept cells grown from your hESCs, especially if the hESCs have some genetic match with them.
Creating and banking your own embryonic stem cells from your discard frozen IVF embryos may allow you to address your future health needs and your family's. It has the potential to treat Alzheimer's, diabetes, spinal cord injury, heart insufficiency and more. And it is a good alternative if you don't want to keep the embryos in storage any longer.