Singapore Scientists Find Adult Stem Cells on Umbilical Cord

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 4, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Singapore Scientists Find Adult Stem Cells on Umbilical Cord Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 4, 2005

Singapore ( — Scientists have known for years that umbilical cord blood has vast reservoirs of adult stem cells for us in research and treatments for dozens of diseases and conditions. However, researchers in Singapore now say the umbilical cord itself is a rich source of more cells.

Scientists in Singapore’s Cell Research Corporation said Monday that the outer lining of the umbilical cord not only has stem cells that are easily accessible, but also possess both epithelial and mesenchymal cells — which can produce almost any cell in the human body.

"So far the most versatile stem cells are found in embryos. However, the process of harvesting stem cells from embryos has been a subject of much controversy as its use intrinsically involves destruction of embryos," Edwin Chow, Business Director, of the company told the PTI news service.

"With the new technology, a large number of stem cells can be obtained from a part which is a medical waste. Besides, no ethical issues are involved in their usage," he added.

In a press release, the company says that the cells may have similar abilities to controversial embryonic stem cells, in that they could become any type of cell necessary for treatment. If so, that could take some of the luster off of the embryonic stem cells, which require the destruction of human life to obtain.

"Using standard protocols, we have been able to successfully differentiate these cells into specific cells such as skin, bone, and fat," Chow said. He admitted that more research is necessary.

Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, talked about the enormous potential for umbilical cord blood stem cells when the House of Representatives approved a measure calling for a national bank of the cells and funding to put it together.

"Umbilical cords are a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells, but currently hospitals throw millions of them away each year because we do not have the infrastructure needed to properly collect and store them," said Smith — who has been championing this legislation for three years.

"The best kept medical secret has been that thousands have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for more than 67 diseases including Leukemia and Sickle Cell Anemia," Smith added.