Stem Cell Research
Pioneers in life-saving research
The remarkable quality of stem cells is that they can develop into any kind of cell in the human body. These “building block” cells can also renew, or replicate, themselves, over and over again, creating millions of new cells. Researchers see great promise in these traits. They hope that stem cells might one day replace diseased or damaged cells, curing illness and repairing the disease-damaged body.
The two most commonly discussed types of human stem cells are adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells.
Adult stem cells
Every person has this type of stem cell. They are non-specialized cells found among cells in a tissue or organ. The main job of adult stem cells is to maintain and repair their home tissue. They are capable of this because they can renew themselves and evolve into the major specialized cell types of their tissue or organ.
It was thought that adult stem cells were limited in their potential because they would only develop into specialized cells associated with their particular tissue of origin. However, some evidence suggests that adult stem cells may have more capabilities of differentiation than previously thought, increasing the number of cell types a given adult stem cell can become.
The two key sources of adult stem cells are bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. Read more about how stem cells can improve recovery after transplant.
Embryonic stem cells
As their name suggests, embryonic stem cells come from embryos. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are completely unspecialized.
Researchers get these embryos when eggs fertilized in vitro—in an in vitro fertilization clinic—are donated for research purposes. They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body. Human embryonic stem cells are typically derived from discarded 4-5 day old embryos after a couple decides they no longer have a need for them and give informed consent for them to be donated.
Periodically, questions are raised about research using embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue. Children’s Cancer Research Fund is gathering and weighing all science, research and ethics-related information to better quantify the potential value and impact to the organization and our mission.
At this time, and until we complete our due diligence, we will not fund any research that uses embryonic stem cells or fetal tissue (nor have we funded this type of research in the past).
We will continue to fund research using stem cells from adults or umbilical cord blood, which is collected after the birth of a baby and donated for research.