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Red Gold

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Hey Ladies! Great news. That monthly, underpant-wrecking mess that you currently curse for ruining your positive outlook and/or semi-flat belly and/or oral sex capacity? It isn't one hundred percent bad! Not only does it mean that your body is working like it is supposed to and capable of bringing forth new life, that sticky glop is brimming with the most valuable resource on earth. No, no. Don't swish it in a pan seeking gold nuggets or siphon it into your gas tank. But, thanks to Cryo-Cell International Inc., you can now consider it a rich river of stem cell juice.

Last week, Cryo-Cell International Inc., one of the world's largest family umbilical cord blood banks, announced that it had discovered technology that allows women to collect their own stem cell-loaded menstrual flow and cryogenically preserve it, just like with umbilical cord blood, just like with leftover embryos from in vitro fertilization treatments.

The service, called C'elle gives women of menstruating age the opportunity to preserve their "Monthly Miracle." And with an estimated 100 million women of menstruating age in the U.S., and even accounting for the pregnant ones on temporary hiatus from this particular brand of miracle-making, that's still a huge heap of wonderment.

As you most likely remember from a health class filmstrip, menstrual flow results from the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) during menstruation. But what those strips never mentioned, because nobody had yet figured out a way to procure, process, isolate and cryopreserve them, is that the uterine lining contains millions of stem cells with similar properties and characteristics to those of both bone marrow and embryonic stem cells.

But how does one go about collecting the blood? Will it require I wring out sanitary napkins? Must I fasten a catch basin to my netherparts? And then there are the logistics, the packing and shipping of this most intimate of parcels. And what if you sustain a spinal cord injury and Cryo-Cell helps you grow some replacement tissue, will dogs chase you down for a whiff of your dorsal root ganglion? Ooh. And careful around shark-infested waters.

Dr. Amit N. Patel, Director of Cardiac Stem Cell Therapies at the McGowan Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center studies menstrual stem cells. After much research, he has concluded that they demonstrate the capability to differentiate into neural, cardiac, bone, cartilage, and adipose cells, at least.

"This is the first discovery of such a multipotent, highly prolific and readily accessible source of stem cells -- even one menstrual cycle has the potential to produce millions of stem cells," said Dr. Stephen Noga, Director, Medical Oncology/Hematology, Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, and Director, Cellular Therapeutics Program, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. "Stem cells isolated from menstrual blood may show significant promise for future use in clinical regenerative medical therapies. This brings us one step closer to tissue and organ regenerative approaches. They are adult stem cells, but they share some of the same features of embryonic stem cells in their ability to multiply rapidly and differentiate into other cell types of the body. Current research is very preliminary, but given their properties, we believe these menstrual stem cells demonstrate compelling promise to transform regenerative medicine in the coming years."

Of course this is interesting news, a wonderful breakthrough and a relief for those of us who either forgot to bank a newborn's umbilical cord blood or who know they are at risk for certain debilitating diseases and seek to lay a safety net of therapeutic redress.

But I'd hate to go about collecting the stuff only to find out that period-banking was just another scheme to make money off of women and their bodies. I'd also hate to deny my dogs their monthly scavenging in my trashcan, especially since those neutered bitches don't stand a therapeutic chance.

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