The placenta is a reservoir of stem cells with minimal ethical concerns. The establishment of placental stem cell biobanks will enable their use in regenerative medicine, promoting a longer and healthier life.
Stem cells have emerged as a promising tool in regenerative medicine and can be used to develop personalized therapies for the treatment of various diseases. However, sourcing stem cells can be extremely challenging. Moreover, the use of stem cells raises ethical and safety considerations, limiting their widespread use. However, the placenta has recently been considered a reservoir of stem cells with minimal ethical concerns
Longevity.Technology: Like all long-term investments there are risks. Back in 2019 Cryo-Save in Europe closed it doors after it ran out of cash. The 330,000+ samples of cord blood and tissue from Cryo-Save clients in Europe were thankfully transferred to a dedicated building near Warsaw airport ; they are now under the management of Polish bank, PBKM. While the business model is challenging, the science of saving the placental blood from your birth for future interventions is sound.
The placenta develops from the fetus and is attached to the uterus during pregnancy. This unique maternal-fetal organ is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus while removing metabolic byproducts at the same time. During birth, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and is expelled from the body [1, 2].
Although the role of the placenta during embryonic development is long-standing, its potential use as a source of embryonic stem cells, has not been as clear until more recently. The first placental blood transplant took place in 2008, whereas cord blood transplantations have been performed for more than 30 years now!
The placental blood can be collected and used as a valuable source of stem cells. In fact, it has now become evident that the placental blood contains higher numbers of stem cells than the cord blood. More importantly, the placenta is more abundant in mesenchymal stromal cells, which can give rise to a broader range of cell types compared to hematopoietic stem cells found in the cord blood. Moreover, placental blood contains more endothelial stem cells, which can be used as precursors to develop skin tissues and blood vessels. Currently, several clinical trials are studying the role of placental stem cells in wound healing, auto-immune disorders, and arthritis, among other applications [3, 4].
Although placental stem cell banking is lagging far behind compared to cord blood banking, the number of companies offering placental tissue banking has increased in the last few years. Dr Bob Hariri was the first to describe the placenta as a source of stem cells, and he created a business called LifebankUSA, which provides private placental stem cell banking .
“At your moment of birth, you are probably at the point of biological perfection,” said Dr Bob Hariri, Founder of LifebankUSA and co-founder of Human Longevity, Inc. “Your system hasn’t been exposed to all of those injurious stimuli, like electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, etc., and your biological software is uncorrupted,” he added .
Dr Robert Hariri has recently teamed up with Dr Peter Diamandis and created the startup called Celularity that aims to isolate stem cells from placentas and use them to develop novel personalised therapies . Apart from LifebankUSA, a few other private companies offer placental stem cell banking, including Cells4Life (UK) and Americord (USA).
Placenta has emerged as a valuable source of a large number of stem cells, which are easy to isolate and can develop into a variety of specialised cells. However, future studies are needed to understand in more detail the mechanisms involved in the development of the placental stem cells and to optimize their therapeutic applications.