Child safety: a tricky balance
Second only to cancer, accidental injuries are one of the UK’s biggest threats to children’s lives. “Accidents can be prevented” is the message of the organisers of this week’s Child Safety Week, “but there’s a balance to be struck. Children need to experiment, play and take risks.”(1) In fact there is a mountain of research showing that “limiting children’s access to outdoor risky play opportunities combined with… excessive focus on safety can pose a threat to healthy child development.”(4)
As parents and scientists, our Biovault Family team are acutely aware of the devasting effect of illness and injury on the lives of children and their families. Every day our energies are focused on keeping cells and people safe. But, in the irrefutable words of Albert Einstein:
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
So, this Child Safety Week we are asking: Is it Possible to Keep Our Children Too Safe?
Risky play and the risk of not playing
In a landmark study for the National Trust, Stephen Moss showed how increased traffic, ‘stranger danger’ campaigns and a growing obsession with Health and Safety combined to limit children’s freedom. He argued that our ‘zero-risk’ world was actually a risk in itself, causing a range of physical and mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to asthma, vitamin D deficiency and obesity.
Experts such as Professor Tanya Byron have also emphasised the disservice we do our children by preventing them from taking appropriate risks: “The less children play outdoors, the less they learn to cope with the risks and challenges they will go on to face as adults.”(2)
Treating childhood injury and illness: the role of stem cells and regenerative medicine
When parents choose to store their child’s umbilical cord blood and cord tissue with Biovault Family, they are preparing for the worst. Cord blood stem cells are used to treat children suffering from leukaemia, sickle cell disease and over 80 other life-threatening conditions. Obviously, we hope families will never need to use these cells.
Treating traumatic injury with stem cells has proved successful, cheifly in helping athletes to recover from sporting injuries. Doctors are now able to apply stem cells directly to damaged ligaments, tendons, or bones; stitch torn tissues together with stem-cell-coated thread, and inject stem cells directly into affected areas.(5) Stem cells of the variety found in the umbilical cord (MSCs) have also been proven to help patients to recover from brain trauma by decreasing the inflammation and encouraging the regeneration of severed nerves.(6)
No one would suggest encouraging children to take unnecessary risks that could result in injury, but it is reassuring to know that advances in regenerative medicine are empowering parents to protect their children more than ever before from the top two threats to children in the UK: cancer and injury.
Find out more about stem cell storage here.