People talk a lot about stem cells but do you really know what they are? Stem cells are the cells from which all other cells are generated. They’re basically a blank cell that divides to form more cells (known as ‘daughter cells’) that have a specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells or bone cells.
Watching stem cells mature into cells in these specialised areas in lab conditions helps scientists understand how diseases and other conditions develop. And the really exciting thing is that they can potentially generate healthy cells to replace diseased or damaged tissues. Stem cell therapy could be used to help people with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer, osteoarthritis… the list is potentially endless.
So what does this ‘regenerative medicine’ have to do with periods? Well, there are stem cells right there in your period blood. Scientists researching stem cells found that the lining of the uterus is full of them. Each month, after the lining is shed, it is rebuilt in preparation for the next cycle, and this involves growing the billions of cells in just seven days! Unlike gathering stem cells from bone marrow, you don’t have to go in and perform a painful procedure to collect them; you just wait a few days and voila! Mother Nature sends them out for you.
Back in 2007, an American-based company called Cryo-Cell started banking menstrual blood for women who wanted to store it for their own potential future use. In 2011, LifeCell International did likewise in India, with stated future goals to help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, among others.
Decried as ‘hypothesis’ and ‘hype’ by many in mainstream medicine, it’s certainly a long way off for now. But it’s gotta be one to watch.