Issues raised by the collection and storage of umbilical cord stem cells for future use, were discussed at a free public talk organised by the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), NUI Galway, on Wednesday, 28 March at the Menlo Park Hotel, Galway.
Stem cell research is one of the most promising areas in medical research and there is early scientific evidence that stem cell therapy could provide treatments for a range of currently incurable diseases. One of the sources of adult stem cells is umbilical cord blood, and the current clinical use of cord blood stem cells is restricted to diseases of the blood and immune system, which are relatively rare.
The likelihood that a child will require his or her own stem cells is extremely small (one in several thousand) and this has led some clinicians to advise that mothers should be discouraged from banking the cord blood. However others argue that it is likely that cord blood will become a valuable resource as further clinical use of stem cells develops.
“Stem cell technology offers many opportunities for future therapy, but there are obstacles yet to be overcome” according to Prof. Frank Barry, REMEDI Scientific Director, and leading stem cell scientist. “This makes the area of cord blood banking somewhat complex as it is difficult to predict whether these cord blood stem cells will be of significant clinical importance in the future. However it is likely that cord blood stem cells will be an invaluable resource, as they are plentiful and more easily obtained than any other source of adult stem cells, and do not raise any ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells.”
Professor Barry outlined the scientific evidence both for and against cord blood collection, as one of the speakers at the public talk.
Other speakers included: Catherina McCauley, a parent who had to overcome resistance in Ireland to be allowed to collect and store her child’s cord blood in an Irish hospital; Dr. Deirdre Madden, a Senior Lecturer in Law at UCC who discussed the legal issues in relation to cord blood banking; and, Prof. John Morrison, Head of Dept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at NUI Galway and Clinical Director of the Women’s and Children’s Directorate at UCHG, focused on the obstetric and labour ward aspects of umbilical cord stem cell collection.