Could freezing your stem cells save your life? Fat chance.

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For years new parents have had to decide if they want to save their baby’s cord blood because it is rich in stem cells and could, theoretically, be used later to help the child if they develop diseases like leukemia. Now there’s a new twist to this idea, with clinics offering to store fat from adults and use that in the same way. For a price.

Companies like Forever Labs and Cells on Ice offer to do mini-liposuctions on patients and then bank those fat cells so they can be used at some future point to cure whatever might ail that person. Forever Labs also offers the option of taking blood stem cells from your bone marrow. The claim is that these stem cells, whether from fat or blood, could be injected back into the person to combat everything from orthopedic injuries to diabetes and even, one day, Alzheimer’s.

Both companies have impressive looking websites that state things like

“Your stem cells grow older as you do.” And that by storing them now “you have a reserve of your own young stem cells for future use.”

Sounds great. There’s just one problem. There’s no evidence these cells can do that. One day in the future it’s possible they might. Maybe. But right now you will be paying thousands of dollars for someone to keep your frozen fat in a refrigerator.

The sites say by storing your cells now, when you are say, 30 years old, they’ll be younger and healthier than if you are relying on your cells when you are in your 50’s or 60’s. Taking them out now means you’ll have a bank of healthy young cells ready to use in the future.

But is that really true? There are a few, small, studies that suggest there may be some evidence to support that notion but they are using cells from young donors taken just before being transplanted into older patients. These are not cells that have sat in a refrigerator for years or even decades. Other scientists have criticized these studies as being poorly designed and producing flawed results.

One thing everyone agrees on, there is no harm in taking your fat and putting it on ice for years. The only thing it will hurt is your wallet. Forever Labs charges $1,500 to collect and freeze your fat cells (bone marrow cells are an additional $1,000), with a yearly storage fee of $250.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Could freezing your stem cells save your life? Fat chance.

  1. Stem cells seem to be the most debatable area of research at the moment when it comes to medicine and possible cures to previously incurable diseases. There is no doubt that there is a lot of potential in this field but there is just so much we still don’t know. Storage of fat cells? It might be possible to use adult fat cells in the future after a considerable amount of breakthroughs in stem cells have been made, however to spend $1500 to freeze fat cells in a hope seems absurd. There are so much questions to be asked. How are these cells being purified? How are the cells being frozen so that it can function after it is thawed? From an economic standpoint, how reasonable is it and is it a good/profitable investment? However, as the article says ” there is no harm in putting your fat on ice” and despite the questions the chance of possible benefits far outweighs the doubts.

  2. Stem cell research is still a relatively new field and therefore new findings are discovered all the time so as it says in the article there maybe studies in the future that may support this but as of now i cannot justify spending at least $1500 on something that has no merit right now.The claim also that stem cells no matter where they come can be used to cure everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s is not possible right now as previous research has shown that stem cells in one part of the body can only form cells pertaining to that same part, ie, skin stem cells can only form skin cells whilst brain stem cells can only form brain cells. The only stem cells that we know of that can produce different cells are embryonic stem cells,which the use of is still debated due to the perceived ethical and moral dilemmas.

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