US company Cryo-Cell has launched a bank designed for women who want to store their own stem cells, taken from the menstrual blood, as a future health insurance.
Stem cells can be obtained from numerous sources, including the blood, bone marrow and embryos. And a number of private companies, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Health Bank, already offer umbilical cord blood banking for about £1,500.
Cryo-Cell charges a sum of $499 (£238) for processing and a year’s storage of menstrual stem cells.
The woman is sent a collection kit in the post, comprising a cup, collection tubes and a prepaid return shipment to Cryo-Cell.
Menstrual stem cells – which form in the womb lining whichis then shed during a woman’s period – have the advantage of being easily harvested in a painless, non-invasive manner as compared to some other stem cell sources such as bone marrow.
And like other stem cells, early lab work suggests they too have the potential to turn into many other types of cell, including heart, nerve, bone, cartilage and fat, the company claims.
Spokesman for the company, stem cell expert Dr Stephen Noga, director of the Cellular Therapeutics Program, at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, said: “Even one menstrual cycle has the potential to produce millions of stem cells.
“Current research is very preliminary, but given their properties, we believe these menstrual stem cells demonstrate compelling promise to transform regenerative medicine in the coming years.”
Cryo-Cell says on its website that “realistically, it may take several years for these menstrual stem cells to be developed into potential widely-available commercial therapies”.