The Menstrual Blood and Stem Cell Connection
Many of us dread that time of the month but our period is actually an important evaluator of female physical health, considered now as the 5th vital sign, and not just a reproductive event.
New research is now showing menstrual blood to serve an additional purpose that can be used for healing disease in the body. How so? Menstrual fluid is actually a rich source of stem cells.
Before we move on, you may be wondering what exactly are stem cells?
Stem cells are special types of human cells that can replicate into other cell types such as brain cells, bone cells, nerve cells, fat cells, and muscle cells.
These types of cells are the only cells that can generate new cell types. Stem cell therapy involves the use of stem cells in order to initiate repair and regeneration of damaged tissues in the body. These can be used to treat a variety of severe diseases. The most common form of stem cell therapy uses bone marrow transplants to treat conditions such as lymphoma and leukemia.
Menstrual blood-derived stem cells (MenSCs) were first discovered in 2007 from human menstrual fluid and the growing research and clinical trials are so far encouraging showing there is much potential as a form of regenerative medicine.
Found in endometrial tissue, researchers have now discovered that these stem cells can be retrieved without any invasive procedures as they can simply be collected from menstrual blood, representing a major advantage over other stem cell sources. This represents an easy, simple, non-surgical, and ethical method to retrieve therapeutic stem cells for the treatment of disease.
Menstrual fluid is simply collected from women using a medical-grade silicone inserted into the vagina like a tampon, that collects blood during the menses. The collected blood is then poured into a special container and then shipped out to the laboratory (1).
MenSCs may provide many therapeutic benefits with the potential to treat a variety of diseases such as liver disease, diabetes, stroke, ovarian cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, endometriosis, and coronary artery disease (4).
Studies have confirmed MenSCs to display greater immunosuppressive as well as migratory properties compared to stem cells collected from the umbilical cord (5). This is important in order for the stem cells to reach the site of injury and exert their therapeutic effects, and MenSCs have this ability even under pro-inflammatory conditions.
The potential of using menstrual blood-derived stem cells for the treatment of disease is so far promising. Not only does menstrual fluid provide an easily accessible source of stem cells, these cells have also demonstrated specific immunosuppressive and migratory properties that as a result can lead to enhanced wound healing and regeneration in the body as well as treating serious diseases.