Company: Menstrual Blood Banking Easy Way to Store Stem Cells

Is menstrual blood the newest way to preserve disease-fighting stem cells? One company believes it is.

Cryo-Cell International has been in the umbilical cord banking business since 1989. It recently formed a subsidiary called C’Elle for purpose of banking menstrual blood for the stem cell harvesting.

Click here to watch a video about menstrual blood banking

In recent years, stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells, have been shown to be effective immune system boosters useful in fighting diseases such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia, sickle cell disease, anemia and other diseases. Their effectiveness is currently being studied for heart disease and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Umbilical cord stem cells have been used in 8,000 transplant operations worldwide, according to Cryo-Cell. The company recently funded research that found menstrual blood to be rich in stem cells, which also may be useful in future disease-fighting efforts, the company’s CEO Mercedes Walton told Tuesday.

“They actually have all of the properties of an adult stem cell, very similar to those that are harvested from bone marrow and cord blood,” she said. “They also have unique markings similar to embryonic stem cell markings, which are really unique. So we’ve found a new source of stem cells that’s so promising and non-controversial.”

Billed as a low-priced cord bank, Cryo-Cell, of Oldsmar, Fla., has had some rocky roads in 18 years in business. In 2003, the company's former CEO, John V. Hargiss, abruptedly quit less than two months after the company's stock hit an all-time low of $1 amid reports that the company's supercold storage freezer had malfunctioned repeatedly, jeopardizing the viability of the stem cells inside. Its stock was trading around $1.35 a share as of Tuesday afternoon.

To store blood with C’Elle, women may obtain an at-home collection kit online at Inside the kit is cup that can be used during menstruation for the collection of blood.

“It’s inserted similar to tampon and, within one to three hours, it can be removed,” Walton said.

The cost to store the blood includes an initial fee of $499, which covers the first year of storage. It’s $99 a year for subsequent years, Walton said.

Although Cryo-Cell researchers see the potential in menstrual blood banking, not everyone is convinced. In a recent interview with the BBC, one doctor said it was too soon to start singing the praises of menstrual blood banking.

"This is all hypothesis and hype,” Peter Braude, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at London's King's College told BBC. “This is such a long way off. I can see no reason why you would need to collect your own menstrual fluid.”

Walton acknowledged that it will be years before women are able to capitalize on their menstrual blood stem cells.

“The C’Elle stem cells have not been used in human clinical trials, but we are working with scientists around the world doing pre-clinical cardiac models. We’ve injected menstrual stem cells into mice in which we’ve triggered heart attacks and our research has shown that the heart can rebuild itself using menstrual stem cells. We’re also working on diabetes and other applications.”

Walton said older women should consider banking menstrual blood before hitting menopause.

“Young women may also want to consider preserving their menstrual blood as studies have shown they have a more robust supply of stem cells,” she added.