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Thanks to the surge in interest in stem cells and the potential power of regenerative medicine, a growing number of companies are offering to isolate and store stem cells from various sources: babies’ placentas, adult blood, and even extra embryos generated for in vitro fertilization. The latest option comes from Cryo-Cell International, a Florida-based cord-blood bank. Brilliantly christened C’elle, the company is now offering women the chance to store their own menstrual stem cells. The service costs $499 for processing and the first year’s storage, with a subsequent annual storage fee of $99 per year.

According to Cryo-Cell’s website, the cells present

a potential source for promising regenerative therapies to treat heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders like spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, in addition to cosmeceutical applications such as anti-aging therapies, to name a few …

The Company believes that the C’elle service offers women no matter what their age, with the unique opportunity to preserve “Your Monthly Miracle” while they are in good health and have access to this distinctive source of stem cells …

Upon ordering, you’ll receive an attractive, discreet C’elle collection kit by FedEx delivery. Inside, you’ll find everything needed for you to collect and send your C’elle menstrual stem cells for processing and preservation, including a menstrual cup, collection tubes, prepaid FedEx airbill for return shipment to Cryo-Cell, and comprehensive instructions for use.

The biggest issue with many of these services is that there are very few, if any, current therapeutic uses. The companies are banking on promises of future therapies that may never pan out, or may not actually require the cells that the client has been faithfully paying to store.

The menstrual stem cells, derived from the uterine lining shed during a woman’s monthly period, are a relatively new discovery. In the lab, they can differentiate into neural, cardiac, bone, cartilage, and fat cells, and they’re being tested in animal models for various medical applications. And while menstrual stem cells present a noninvasive potential source of stem cells, they have only been under study for a short time, making their future utility even more uncertain.

An article from the BBC news highlights criticism of the new service.

Professor Peter Braude, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, from London’s King’s College and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, said: “This is all hypothesis and hype. This is such a long way off. I can see no reason why you would need to collect your own menstrual fluid.

“The thing that worries me most is that it is capitalising on people’s insecurity.”

Mercedes Walton, chairman and CEO of Cryo-Cell, said: “It’s not preying upon a fear. Stem cell science is real.

“It’s building upon our knowledge, the proven history of stem cells and upon the hope of the advancements that will come with regenerative science.”

Rebecca Rutter, operations manager for UK-based private cord blood storage facility Cells4Life, questioned how practical the service was as a source for stem cells.

“Stem cells have been identified in menstrual blood. But it is too early to tell if they are going to be therapeutically viable.”

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Tagged: Biomedicine, stem cells

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