Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting back to the basics

Thank you to Cindy for sharing her story with the rest of us.  Spina Biffida affects the spine, whereas cerebral palsy affects the brain, nevertheless, what I wanted you to all see was how powerful stem cells can be, spine, brain, taste buds, muscles, whatever!  Danielle has made amazing progress in so many ways...she couldn't feel her feet/legs before the treatment, couldn't taste anything, had no balance or coordination, and could not stand independently at all.  Now she has all of these things and so much more.  She has a chance at a better life through childhood and adulthood, with more independence, confidence, and self awareness.  Giving a child these things, that may seem so small for us, is soooo big for them!

On another note, I have been in the depths of stem cells for about a year now, and forget that not everyone has the knowledge base that Matt and I do at this point.  So, thanks to a local friend, I am going to get back to basics...

Stem Cells are cells that have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

They are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. 
All stem cells—regardless of their source—have three general properties: they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods; they are unspecialized; and they can give rise to specialized cell types.  


1.      Embryonic stem cells - are harvested from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst seven to ten days after fertilization.
2.      Fetal stem cells - are taken from the germ line tissues that will make up the gonads of aborted fetuses.
3.      Umbilical cord stem cells - Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow.
4.      Placenta derived stem cells - up to ten times as many stem cells can be harvested from a placenta as from cord blood.
        5.   Adult stem cells - Many adult tissues contain stem cells that can be isolated

Embryonic and fetal stem cells have proven to cause tumors in a few cases.  These cells are considered very immature and, in some cases, can not seem to stop growing once the treatment has taken.  This does not happen in everyone who accepts these cells, like an amazing woman I have spoken at great length with who has had six treatments of fetal cells.  She gets checked for tumors/growths every six months and is free from harm to date.  I am in awe of her strength and courage, as she has undergone much triumph in her life.  I won't go any further, as she may tell her story to you all on our blog.  If not, I want to consult with her first before I go on about her personal life.  Stay tuned :-)

Umbilical Cord Blood cells have shown no harm in the 20 years they have been used outside of our country.  There was a study done 10 years ago (I believe) involving 300 children, and not one of them had any issues (growths, reactions, etc.).  Each one continues to live a healthy life to date.  

Placental stem cells are very new.  This was something they were just talking about a year ago when we saved Nora's cord blood.  Now it seems as though the researchers have gotten a bit further in knowing that the cells are very powerful.

Adult stem cells are cells taken out of your own body.  There are two ways this generally happens...(1) a very small liposuction-type machine is used to gather the stem cells from your adipose fat, in your belly area, or (2) the cells are taken surgically from your bone marrow.  Neither of these cause harm, as they are one's own cells.

Through all of the research we have done, we are going to use one of three cell types for Lila.  First, if possible, we would like to use Nora's cord blood (umbilical).  Second, we would choose to use donated umbilical cord blood from a healthy baby/mother.  Third, would be to utilize Lila's own adult stem cells.  It all depends on which doctor we decide to use, as they both have a bit of a different philosophy. 

This is a very hard decision for Matt and I, as we are making a decision that is based upon someone else's body.  This is the reason we have done such extensive research, and have searched out multiple families who have used stem cells to date.  Now we have done enough research to know that this decision we are making is not going to negatively impact our child, and the safe route is the route for us.  When Lila gets older and can decide for herself, she is more than welcome to have another treatment and use whichever types of cells she would like at that time.  We will support her decision whole-heartedly, as stem cells will have come so far....doctors may actually be using them in the States by then (hahah)!  

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