What Are Stem Cells?

A stem cell has the capability to evolve into various cell types during the body’s growth and early development. They act as a repair system in tissues in which the cells divide limitlessly to restore other cells in a living body. The stem cell has two dominant features:

  • They have the capacity to renew themselves by the act of cell division.

  • They are distinguished by two characteristics: Unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through the division of the cells and they can be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells with special functions.

Basically, stem cells can multiply and they can turn into other types of cells or tissue.

Due to the special regeneration abilities of a stem cell, the cells have the potential to heal many types of damaged tissue. This provides potentiality for the advancement of treating diseases.

Types of Stem Cells

A stem cell is different from other cells found in the body, and there are also different kinds of stem cells. However, a stem cell maintains three primary characteristics:

Pluripotent cells are capable of rising to each of the various cell types. An embryonic stem cell is pluripotent. Multipotent cells have more limitations than pluripotent cells, but they can result in different cell types. An adult stem cell is classified in this group.

  • They can divide and renew themselves for extended durations.

  • They are considered unspecialized cells (meaning that structurally the cells are not tissue-specific which would allow them to carry out specialized functions).

  • They can develop into cell types that are specialized.

Categories

Embryotic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells, derived from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst. A blastocyst is an early-stage embryo, which reaches the blastocyst stage 5 days after fertilization. The size of a human blastocyst is minuscule. In normal progression, the cells inside the inner cell mass will give rise to the more specialized cells that give rise to the entire body, all of our tissues and organs. Upon extraction from the inner cell mass and handled in special laboratory conditions, these cells retain their properties of embryonic stem cells

Embryonic stem cells are identified by their ability to differentiate into any cell type and by their ability to spread. These cells are extremely valued because they provide a renewable resource for studying normal development and disease, and for testing drugs and other therapies.

 Tissue-specific Stem Cells

An adult stem cell, also referred to as a somatic stem cell, is thought to have localization in specific areas of tissue. The classification, “somatic,” indicates a body’s cells, differentiating from germ cells, eggs or sperm. Tissue-specific stem cells, also known as somatic or adult stem cells, are highly specialized, more so than embryonic stem cells.

Adult stem cells are essentially for your body to repair and use as a regenerative tool. These cells exist throughout your body and help in repairing the body from injury. Normally, these stem cells can generate different types of cells for the specific tissue or organ in which they reside.

Research has shown that tissue-specific stem cells can be hard to locate within the human body. Also, self-renewal in culture is non-existent, as opposed to the positive self-renewal in culture for embryonic stem cells. Continued research of these cells have increased our general knowledge about normal development, what changes in aging, and what happens with injury and disease.

Induced Pluripotent

A genetically restructured adult cell that gets factitiously made to express qualities and factors for keeping the defining characteristics of an embryonic stem cell is called an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC).

Induced pluripotent stem cells are cells that have been engineered in the lab. This process essentially converts tissue-specific cells, such as skin cells, into cells that perform like embryonic stem cells. These cells are essential tools leveraged to help researchers learn more about normal development, disease onset and disease progression. They are also valuable for developing and testing new drugs and therapies for future uses.

Mesenchymal

Stem cells found in fatty tissue are known as Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). Additional regenerative cells are also found in you adipose (fat) tissue and they work in conjunction to promote healing. These cells have the capacity to repair or replace damaged tissue; thus making them uniquely qualified for treating chronic diseases.

“Mesenchymal” is a term currently in use to describe a non-hematopoietic (or non-blood) adult stem cell that comes from a variety of tissues. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) help facilitate natural tissue regeneration and play an integral role in vital organs being stabilized and wound healing. Adult stem cells are derived from bone marrow. Mesenchymal stem cells can also be extracted from other tissues sources. These sources include cord blood, peripheral blood, fallopian tube, fetal liver and lung. Multipotent stem cells, MSCs differentiate to form adipocytes, cartilage, bone, tendons, muscle, and skin.