Stem cells, the precursors to other kinds of cells in the human body, promise near-miracle medical treatments such as regenerating organs or repairing nerves.
But stem cell medicine is still in the early stages. Culturing the right kind of cell remains difficult and so far only a few procedures are FDA-approved. Odds are it will be several years before a wide range of ailments can be treated with stem cells.
For those who want to be ready for that day, some companies in the United States are offering people a chance to bank their stem cells for future use. That way when treatments are available, there will be stem cells ready to go that came from the patient's own body, eliminating the issue of rejection of donor cells. Meanwhile, the cells are presumably healthier, as they would have been collected from a younger, disease-free patient.
"With all these amazing advancements in the last few years, there will be stem cell therapies," said Vin Singh, founder and CEO of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Next Healthcare, which offers stem cell banking.