08.07.2013

Uses, conservation and possibilities of stem cells

The field of research with stem cells is a promising area within the field of reconstructive and regenerative medicine. However, its development is still in an experimental phase in many of its potential applications. For this reason, the Committee plays a key role to respond to this matter.

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Uses, conservation and possibilities of stem cells 1

This committee advises and reports about the state-of-the-art advances in therapies with stem cells.

The Advisory Committee in Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine was created in 2007 to give response to any questions arisen from the multiple therapies with stem cells that were released in the media during that time.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that renew unlimitedly. Researches have proved that under certain conditions, they may be induced to become cells with specific functions to "work", for instance, as neurons or pancreatic cells, producing insulin. The key challenge for the science is to identify the signals that stem cells give to become specialized cells. However, science today has more questions than answers about the use of such cells. In our country, the Advisory Committee for Stem Cells from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation gives advice on legal and scientific aspects related to the research on stem cells.

In order to clarify any doubts about this matter, the advisory committee issues a series of reports and publications to respond to such questions, reports about surveys, prospective analysis, and releases the latest advances achieved in therapies with stem cells.

The experts in this field have pointed out that stem cells have two important features that distinguish them from other types of cells. The first characteristic is that they are not specialized cells that renew unlimitedly. The second one is that under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become cells with special functions, such as cardiac muscle cells or pancreatic cells to produce insulin.

Scientists are currently developing two types of stem cells from animals and humans: Embrionary stem cells and adult stem cells. On the other hand, stem cells are taken from blood from the umbilical cord.

These therapies are offered worldwide for the treatment of different pathologies through the use of stem cells. However, not any clinical treatments have the approval of the established control agencies. According to this Committee, the following are the approved treatments:

Transplant of stem cells from the bone marrow, peripheral blood, and umbilical cord.
Self-transplant of stem cells from the bone marrow and peripheral blood for the treatment of blood diseases.

This Committee understands that when a stem cell treatment generates consistent therapeutic benefits, without any secondary risks in experimental models, only then a research study may be started on patients.

Therefore, experimental practices in patients should be performed under a state regulatory framework and on a free-of-charge basis for the persons involved.

Only when an experimental treatment has been proved to be therapeutically efficient on patients and there are no undesirable secondary risks, it may be approved by the control agencies to become an established treatment.


Umbilical Cord Public Blood Bank

In 1996 the first National Reference Public Umbilical Cord Blood Bank was created in our country within the Hemotherapy Service of the GarrahanHospital.

Argentina is the third Latin American country, after Mexico and Brazil, to have this type of entity.

Blood called umbilical cord blood is the blood remaining in the placenta and in the umbilical cord after a baby is born. Blood from the umbilical cord contains a great amount of a special type of cells that are in charge of the permanent renewal of blood mature cells.

Such special cells are called “haematopoeic progenitor cells” (HPC) but are commonly known as “stem cells”.

Their main characteristic is that they are immature cells that can split and differentiate to give origin to any type of mature cell types existing in the blood: Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The main purpose of a public bank is to collect blood from the umbilical cord that families donate from the umbilical cords of their children altruistically. Such samples become part of that public bank and are at the disposal of the population of patients who require a bone marrow transplant and do not have a related donor.

Research on stem cells by Argentine experts

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This committee advises and reports about the state-of-the-art advances in therapies with stem cells.

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