StemLifeLine, a California firm, plans to offer the ability to collect and store stem cells from excess embryos that occur during IVF procedures. The MIT Technology Review has the story:
The new service is meant to take advantage of a growing interest in the field of regenerative medicine. Stem cells from adult blood or umbilical-cord blood are already used to treat some diseases, including sickle-cell anemia and several forms of leukemia. But these cells are largely limited to treating blood-related disorders and can’t be grown in large numbers. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, can be coaxed to form virtually any type of cell in the body and can theoretically be replicated indefinitely. Scientists are developing ways to use them to replenish cells lost or damaged in ailments such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and heart disease. But as of now, those treatments are limited to the lab: no embryonic stem-cell-based therapies are approved for human use.
Couples who have had children via IVF are often left with extra embryos–and the rather difficult decision of what to do with them. As of 2003, an estimated 400,000 embryos remained in cryopreservation in the United States. Embryos can be donated to research or to other couples, destroyed, or left languishing in frozen storage. According to Ana Krtolica, StemLifeLine’s CEO, the inspiration to form the company came from requests from clients at IVF clinics who were donating their embryos to research but wanted to know if they would have access to those cells if they were ever needed. (The answer is no.)