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Can stem cells help treat various disorders?

Q: My father has ALS MND (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / Motor Neurone Disease) for the last 2.5 years. We have hope only on stem cell treatment adult, umbilical or embryonic. My wife is going to deliver a child in a month's time, I am planning to store the umbilical cord cells. Can my child's cord cells be of any use to my father? Please advise.

A:Stem cell work is still quite experimental but is very promising. Clinical efficacy is currently limited to bone marrow transplant, grafting new skin cells to treat burns, regenerating cornea in visually impaired etc but its potential use includes cures for cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration and many cardiac and neurological disorders. Stem cells or cells quite akin to them have been identified in several tissues including neural (nerves), pancreatic, epidermal (skin), mesenchymal (bone marrow), hepatic (liver), bone, muscle, and endothelial (blood vessels) tissues and various centres have been reporting their use in Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, endocrine disorders etc. but this is still not being done routinely or being offered as a therapeutic modality. There are still many difficulties in the routine use of stem cells and they include problem in identifying stem cells in tissue cultures which contain numerous types of cells; to coax the cell to develop into a desired cell; integrating the new cells into the patient’s own tissue, both structurally and functionally; preventing tissue rejection and the possible risk of cancer. . There is no national policy to encourage people to store stem cells though several private storage cord blood banks are there that will store a baby’s cord blood for use by that individual or a designated family member but they charge a heavy fee for this. Estimates of the likelihood of a child needing its own stored cells later in life range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000. The American Academy of Paediatrics states: “Given the difficulty in estimating the need for using one's own cord blood cells for transplantation, private storage of cord blood as ‘biological insurance’ is unwise. However, banking should be considered if there is a family member with a current or potential need to undergo stem cell transplantation.” Please consult a good neurologist who will be able to help you.

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