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Use of Umbilical Cord Blood for Stem Cell Research

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      Abstract

      Umbilical cord blood (UCB), long treated as waste material, is today considered a valuable source of hematopoietic stem cells. UCB is used, mostly in children, for the treatment of blood malignancies and inherited blood and metabolic disorders. In addition to blood precursor cells, UCB also contains stem cells that can differentiate into other types, such as cartilage, fat, hepatic, cardiac, and neural cells, fuelling speculation about the use of cord blood stem cells for regenerative medicine. Further research is therefore needed to investigate the expanded potential of UCB and its therapeutic use in cell and tissue therapies. According to a recent survey, practices for the procurement of UCB for research vary widely across Canada, so this area may not yet be ready for uniform regulation. However, some harmonization of practices to increase the availability of UCB for research would be useful for Canadian investigators. In this simple-article, we address several important ethical and legal issues relating to the use of UCB in research and recommend guidelines to serve as a source of useful information for researchers. While their legal acceptability may vary across Canada, it is hoped that these recommendations foster more harmonized UCB research practices.

      Résumé

      Le sang de cordon ombilical (SCO), longtemps considéré comme un déchet, constitue aujourd’hui une source précieuse de cellules souches hématopoïétiques. Le SCO est utilisé, principalement chez les enfants, pour la prise en charge des affections malignes sanguines et des troubles métaboliques et sanguins héréditaires. En plus des cellules précurseurs du sang, le SCO contient également des cellules souches qui peuvent se différencier en d’autres types (cellules du cartilage, du tissu adipeux, du foie, du cœur, du système nerveux, etc.), ce qui alimente les spéculations quant à leur utilisation aux fins de la médecine régénérative. De plus amples recherches s’avèrent donc requises pour explorer le potentiel élargi du SCO et son utilisation thérapeutique dans les thérapies cellulaires et tissulaires. Selon un récent sondage, les pratiques utilisées pour l’obtention du SCO à des fins de recherche varient grandement au Canada; ainsi, ce domaine pourrait ne pas être prêt à se voir imposer une réglementation uniforme. Cependant, une certaine harmonisation des pratiques visant à accroître la disponibilité du SCO à des fins de recherche s’avérerait utile pour les chercheurs canadiens. Dans cet simple-article,nous traitons de plusieurs des importantes questions éthiques et juridiques liées à l’utilisation du SCO à des fins de recherche, et nous recommandons des lignes directrices qui constitueraient une source de renseignements utiles pour les chercheurs. Bien que leur acceptabilité sur le plan juridique puisse varier d’une province et d’un territoire à l’autre, nous espérons que ces recommandations pourront favoriser l’harmonisation des pratiques de recherche en ce qui concerne le SCO.

      Key Words

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