Stem Cell Banking: In the Same League as Cryogenics?


Business is good at Utah-based Apex Biologix, a company that supplies PRP kits, stem cell kits, centrifuges, and other equipment to doctors offering regenerative medicine procedures. As more doctors are getting on board with PRP and stem cell therapies, Apex Biologix has more customers to serve.

Regenerative medicine is doing so well these days that a New Jersey startup has just opened the very first long-term stem cell storage facility for people who hope to bank their own stem cell material in case they ever need to be treated for a disease for which that material might prove useful. Critics of the company wonder aloud if the concept behind stem cell banking is in the same league as cryogenics.

It is interesting to note that the company’s scientific advisers include a long list of stem cell experts boasting Harvard and Stanford credentials. These are people considered to be at the cutting edge of stem cell and other regenerative medicine procedures.

According to a Stat article published this past May, these experts believe that preserving healthy stem cells before age has had the opportunity to take its toll could pave the way for future treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and the like.

Treatments That Don’t Exist

So why do some critics of stem cell banking liken it to cryogenics? Because the concept relies heavily on the eventual development of treatments that do not yet exist. Take Parkinson’s treatments, for example. There is no viable stem cell therapy currently available for treating this terrible disease. Nor is there any such treatment on the horizon. People banking their stem cells for future Parkinson’s treatment are hoping that something is available by the time a diagnosis is made.

Likewise, cryogenics procedures that freeze human bodies are based on the optimistic hope that at some point in the future, preserved corpses can be brought back to life. There is no reason to believe doing so will ever be possible, based on current scientific data, but people still spend thousands of dollars on cryogenic procedures just in case.

Both stem cell banking and cryogenics play into the human desire for immortality. The desire itself is nothing new. Humanity has been chasing the mythical fountain of youth for as long as history has been recorded. What makes stem cell banking and cryogenics different is that they ostensibly have science behind them.

We Know What We Can Do

From a scientific standpoint, we already know what we can do with stem cells and cryopreservation. We already know that it is possible to preserve human cells and tissue indefinitely through certain kinds of preservation techniques. What we do not know is how the preserved material can be used once it is taken out of storage. Therein is the dichotomy of both stem cell banking and cryogenics.

It is one thing to be able to store stem cells and cadavers indefinitely. It is another thing altogether to do something with them once they are taken out of storage. And until medical science finds a way to take advantage of the two practices, there doesn’t seem to be much point in consumers investing thousands of dollars in them.

That will not stop consumers from banking their stem cells or researching cryopreservation for their dead relatives. Nor should it. We live in a free society that allows people to do what they want to do with their money. In the meantime, the scientists behind such preservation techniques owe it to consumers to find ways to make stem cell banking and cryogenics useful above and beyond mere storage.

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