The Potential for Menstrually-Derived Stem Cell Banking in the UK
In the UK, there is a growing demand for the NHS to provide cost-effective medical treatment for the ever-increasing, ever-aging population, suffering from chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Well-established stem cell treatment includes that for blood and immune system diseases and conditions, such as treating leukaemia with a bone marrow transplant. Skin grafts are grown from stem cells for severe burns cases; and cornea damage (surface of the eye) can be repaired with stem cells. However, stem cell treatment is currently limited by the painful, invasive, expensive harvesting procedures required.
Stem cells have been found in menstrual blood: harvesting menstrually-derived stem cells does not require an invasive procedure, can be donated monthly, and can be collected within the donor’s home using a menstrual cup. This new source of stem cells could lead to greater accessibility to stem cell therapy, and increase the rate of stem cell therapy research.
This paper explores the potential for a menstrually-derived banking system in the UK from a scientific, ethical, and human factor standpoint. The scientific community views menstrually-derived stem cells as having potential for application in stem cell therapy. However, the proposed stem cell donation must also be evaluated from an ethical standpoint. The potential for menstrually-derived banking in the UK is driven by the willingness for women to donate their menstrual blood: without the support from women, the entire system is void. The study looks to explore women’s initial thoughts, concerns, and inclination to donate, in addition to their first experiences with a menstrual cup. With potential from a scientific, ethical, and human factor perspective, the scientific and medical community can anticipate and prepare for the potential for banking menstrually-derived stem cells in the UK.