Having your stem cells extracted and banked might sound foreign and scary, but for the leaders behind Next Healthcare Inc., stem cell banking is a no-brainer.
“Now is the time,” said Next Healthcare Inc. CEO and founder Vin Singh. “Everybody has to bank their cells.”
Sing first had the idea to pursue stem cell banking after induced pluripotent stem (iPS) technology was discovered. Put simply, this tech found that one could take a skin cell and convert it into a stem cell. A stem cell is an undifferentiated biological cell with an unlimited ability to multiply. So by converting skin cells into stem cells, you can create a virtually unlimited amount of any cell in the body.
When this discovery was made in 2006, Singh saw the value immediately.
“I thought, wow. This is a big deal,” he said.
A few years later in 2009, he started Next Healthcare Inc. as a way to offer stem and skin cell banking services to the public. The company is now a little over 5 years old and is based in Grand Forks, ND with a business office in Germantown, MD. Their vision, according to the website is “for everyone to have a personal cell bank account.”
Stem cell banking process: straight to the bank
The stem cell banking process looks a bit like this.
The stem cells are extracted through bone marrow, skin cell samples, adipose (fat) tissue, or collecting blood. The cells are then stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at a temperature that stops all metabolic activity – like “suspended animation,” Sing said.
They are stored in multiple vials so that you have multiple opportunities to use those cells in the future. So long as they are frozen, they last theoretically forever, Singh said.
[Editor’s Note, March 18:] There has been some question as to why one would bank stem cells, if they exist in your body. This is because stem cells age as people age, and this can limit their regenerative potential.]
Next Healthcare charges an annual storage fee of $199 with multiple-year storage available at a discount. The different CelBank service features that are available can be found here.
Stem cell banking benefits
The potential health benefits for stem cell treatments, according to Singh, are “unlimited.”
Stem cell procedures currently provide life-saving treatments for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, other blood disorders, and some solid tumors, according to the American Medical Association.
In recent news, on February 11, a phase 2 trial of stem cell transplants used to treat multiple sclerosis had promising results. “Brain damage was significantly reduced in patients getting stem cell transplants, compared to a control group,” the report states.
Singh also referenced the potential for stem cells to heal blood cancers, autoimmune disease, and heart diseases.
“The big benefit is they’re your own cells,” Singh said. “When you’re using your own cells, your body is not going to reject them.”
Although it is possible to use another person’s stem cells as part of a treatment, Singh said that at Next Healthcare their service is only for autologous use – only the patient who donated the cells can use them in the future. This is also the safest method of using stem cells.
Last April, a Stem Cell Therapy Market report predicted the stem cell market will reach $300 million by 2020. Looking towards the years ahead, Singh said that he believes now is the peak time for stem cell banking.
“I bank my own stem cells for peace of mind, because I believe that medicine is heading in a direction where we are all going to be treating our diseases and injuries with our own cells,” he said. “We’re at a special point in regenerative medicine, and I think this is perfect timing for this.”
Taking the stage this week at 1 Million Cups Fargo is Dennis O’Brien, Chief Commercial Officer of Next Healthcare Inc.
He’ll be presenting their company and taking questions and answers afterwards. So if you, like perhaps many of us, still have a few questions regarding stem cell banking – be sure not to miss it! Sign up, here.