Date of Award

2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Tina Passman

Second Committee Member

Sandy Butler

Third Committee Member

Sandra Haggard

Abstract

Throughout history, medicine has sought some modality that offers a Holy Grail of medical miracles. Many advances in medicine have proven to be steps toward attaining that goal. Antibiotics and vaccines have created wonders that have improved the quality of life; and with each ensuing year, further advancements are made in ameliorating human diseases. Few recent medical discoveries, however, hold promise of unique and curative properties as do umbilical cord blood stem cells. This claim may appear sensational, but I would argue that if the same billions of dollars that are currently expended on insurance and research into end-stage diseases were applied toward umbilical cord stem cell research, and the cord blood banks to save and steward them, many of our chronic diseases, disabilities, and birth defects could prove to be a thing of the past. In this paper, I define stem cells and address the advantages found in umbilical cord stem cells. I explain the issues of safety, efficacy and availability. Stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood, in a great number of cases, have already shown themselves to be superior to other sources of stem cells in that they are readily available, easily obtainable, and cause no physical harm or pain in the extracting process. They are not the subject of controversy, as are embryonic stem cells. Additionally, these types of stem cells are least likely to result in tumor formation, and are successfully able to cross the blood/brain barrier. Comparative distinctions must be made between umbilical cord cells and those derived from embryonic tissues and bone marrow. I examine the ethical and moral implications of each. The most exciting and stimulating part of this comparison is the evidence that points toward the efficacy of umbilical cord stem cells in the treatment of a myriad of disease processes. Research studies and clinical trials indicate that umbilical stem cells may contain factors that could lead to a cure for some forms of blood cancers and genetic diseases; there are also some exciting possibilities for future applications of regenerative medicine to chronic illnesses such as Type I Diabetes and Cerebral Palsy. Since umbilical cords are routinely discarded and incinerated with little forethought into preserving their precious and life-giving contents, I will finally argue for the need of state legislation in order to educate new parents, the current medical establishment and the general public about the benefits of preserving and maintaining umbilical cord blood. My argument particularly focuses on the need for establishing the first public umbilical cord stem cell bank in the State of Maine, along with a push for legislation to bring Maine in line with twenty other states that already recognize the tremendous potential for this cutting-edge modality.

Share