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It's been a few years since I observed that scientists seem to find adult stem cells wherever they look. Well now Japanese researchers have harvested stem cells from human menstrual blood, according to a report just released at a medical conference. That's not nearly as strange as it sounds, since it's been known for some time that placenta and umbilical cord blood are an excellent source for them. Besides, when I said "wherever" they look, I meant just that.
At the meeting of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers from Keio University in Tokyo collected menstrual blood from six women and harvested stem cells that originated in the lining of the uterus. They said they were able to obtain about 30 times more stem cells from menstrual blood than from bone marrow, which remains the most common source of adult stem cells. They then differentiated these into heart cells. (The use of marrow cells to repair heart muscle is on the cusp of becoming routine.)
What's the importance of this? To date, the much-celebrated embryonic stem cells have yet to cure or treat a single human being. Their "magic" lies strictly in their potential to become any type of the approximately 220 mature cells in the human body. One response to this is that beginning in 2002, almost countless teams of scientists began discovering adult stem cells that formed all three germ layers that give rise to those 220 cells. Another is that even if adult stem cells are less pliable, if you find them in enough places and can cultivate them easily enough then you don't need "one size fits all."
Get the word out: embryonic stem cells are the cold fusion of biology. And you men with an inordinate disgust at menses, maybe you'll have a new-found respect for tampons and sanitary napkins.