What are stem cells?
Stem cells are unspecialized cells, which have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. If these types of cells are placed in the right conditions, they can divide into more cells called daughter cells. Once they divide as daughter cells, they develop the capability to self renew or become specialized cells with a more specialized function, such as brain cell, muscle cell or red blood cell.
Scientists and doctors are looking forward to the development of stem cell therapy in the years to come because it holds a promise in treating currently incurable diseases.
What are the sources of stem cells?
Adult stem cell
These type of stem cells are specifically found in small numbers of adult tissues, such as fat, bone marrow, blood, skeletal muscles, skin and liver. They exist throughout a person’s body from the development of an embryo. Adult stem cells are in a non-specific state, meaning that they remain the same until the body needs them for a particular purpose like regenerating skin or muscle cells.
Adult stem cells have the ability to divide or self-renew in an indefinite way. This means, they can produce several types of cells from the specific type of organ or even regenerate the organ itself. The division and regeneration is like how a skin wound heals or like a liver, which has the capacity to repair itself after damage.
Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells come from an embryo that is three to five days’ old, at the blastocyst stage and has approximately 150 cells. This type of stem cells are called pluripotent, which means they have the ability to divide into more stem cells or can become any cell type in the body. Embryonic stem cells’ versatility is used to repair or regenerate a damaged tissue or organ.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)
This type of stem cells have the ability for self-renewal and regeneration of cells that belong to skeletal tissues, like fat, bone and cartilage. They are “multipotent” type of cells, which means that they generate more than one type of cells that are found in skeletal tissues. These cells are specifically found in the bone marrow, umbilical cord, adipose tissues, developing tooth bud and amniotic fluid.
The use of MSCs in some other types of conditions is still being researched because it has a great possibility of treating wide range of health problems in the future.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)
These cells are created in the lab by scientists through the use of skin cells or other specific tissue cells. The process is called genetic programming during which the scientists alter the cells to similarly act like embryonic cells.
Researchers are still developing the use of iPS to make sure there will be no adverse effects in humans. But, recently researchers were able to reprogram regular connective tissue to become a functional heart cell. These new heart cells were injected into animals with heart failure, which resulted in an improved heart function and increased survival rate.
What is stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is a type of regenerative medicine, which promotes a regenerative response to specific types of diseases or conditions as well as injured tissues. It is a type of transplantation, but with the use of cells instead of organs.
The stem cells are being cultivated in a lab so they can develop into a specific cell type. These types include blood cells, nerve cells, heart muscle cells and others. The specialized cells are implanted into the affected area to promote regeneration over a period of time.
What are the uses of stem cell therapy?
Stem cells can regenerate and repair damaged tissues in the right condition and with the right stimulation. Many scientists and doctors have proven that it can be used for the following purposes:
- Tissue repair and regeneration
- Treatment for cardiovascular ailments
- Treatment for brain diseases
- Therapeutic treatment for cell deficiency
- Treatment for blood diseases
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