What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cell Sources & Stem Cell Types
What are Stem Cells: STEM CELLS are like the building blocks of the human body. At the beginning of our lives, they divide over and over again to create us from an embryo. During our lives, they replenish cells in our blood, bone, skin, and organs to keep us alive and functioning.
A Stem Cell is a cell with the unique ability to develop into specialized cell types in the body.
Stem cells provide new cells for the body as it grows, and replace specialized cells that are damaged or lost. They have two unique properties that enable them to do this:
- Firstly, the ability to self-renew (perform mitosis), this is a part of the cell cycle when replicated chromosomes are separated into two new nuclei. This gives rise to identical replicated cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.
- Secondly, to differentiate into specialized cells such as cartilage, heart cells, insulin-producing cells, liver cells, and neurons. This regenerative ability of stem cells makes them the ideal choice to tackle many of today’s chronic diseases.
Stem Cell Sources
Embryonic Stem Cells
These stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells.
These are pluripotent stem cells, meaning they can divide into more identical stem cells or can become any type of cell in the body.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
We and other Scientists have successfully transformed regular adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells using genetic reprogramming. By altering the genes in the adult cells, we can reprogram the cells to act similarly to embryonic stem cells.
This new technique allows us to create a source of stem cells with the same function as Embryonic stem cells from a sample of skin tissue.
Perinatal Stem Cells
Perinatal stem cells can be divided into three groups: stem cells from amniotic fluid, placenta, and umbilical cord.
These stem cell’s ability to divide into more cells has limitations and a decline in function with each division. They can differentiation into the majority of cells in the body, but not all unlike pluripotent or embryonic stem cells.
Adult Stem Cells
These stem cells are found in small numbers in most adult tissues, such as bone marrow or fat. Compared with other sources of stem cells, adult stem cells have a more limited ability to give rise to various cells of the body.
As adult stem cells are in limited numbers, they require the culture to expand the numbers to reach therapeutic amounts. This expansion to an already aged population of stem cells shows an increased decline in the function of stem adult stem cells.
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