What are the stem cell banking pros and cons?

One of the latest debates which has polarised the Indian medical researcher fraternity is the issue of stem cell banking. A few research organisations are advocating the storage of umbilical stem cells for various reasons, and there is an opposing voice, which is raising questions regarding the moral aspect of stem cell banking. The advocates of stem cell banking are of the view that it will open up new avenues of effective treatment of congenital diseases such as blindness, deafness, leukaemia, albinism, infertility, baldness and diabetes. On the other hand, a handful of critics are putting forward the view that stem cell research might give rise to certain technologies of human cloning and organ manufacturing, which will create several ethical problems in the society.

First things first, let us discuss what are stem cells basically. These are the cells which possess the capability of replicating itself to a number of functional cells through mitosis. In fact, stem cells are the cells which initially construct all the human organs and functional tissues in a foetus. This is the reason why most of the research on stem cells are done on the embryonic cells.

Broadly classified, there are two types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are found in the bone marrow and the blood. Elaborate clinical procedures are required to segregate stem cells for research from adult cells. However, with technological advancement in the field of medical science, today, bone marrow transplant is a widely recognised practice in the treatment of blood cancer. Nonetheless, most of the storage in stem cell banking is made up of the embryonic stem cells due to the availability of umbilical cords after every child birth. Researchers encourage the personal banking of umbilical cord as a bank of stem cells.

Stem cell banking is a new concept. Like any other medical concepts, it too consists of certain pros and cons.

The stem cell banking pros and cons:

PROS:

  1. Stem cell banking will facilitate effective research
    The voluntary banking of stem cells will allow researchers to get hold of adequate material for research.
  2. Stem cell banking can save lives
    Needless to say, your personal banking of stem cells will benefit you in the long run. Stem cells have the potential to treat critical and life threatening diseases.

CONS:

  1. Stem cell banking is expensive
    The research of stem cells cost a fortune and demands investment from the government or large corporations. This also makes stem cells therapies an expensive affair and away from the reach of common man.
  2. Stem cell banking may produce bio waste
    It might be possible that most people contributing in stem cell banking may never need it in future, giving rise to the production of bio waste.