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Stem Cells

“Stem cells are special human cells that can develop into many different types of cells, from muscle cells to brain cells.”

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells also have the ability to repair damaged cells. These cells have strong healing power. They can evolve into any type of cell.

Research on stem cells is going on, and it is believed that stem cell therapies can cure ailments like paralysis and Alzheimer’s as well. Let us have a detailed look at stem cells, their types and their functions.

Also Read: Gene Therapy

Types of cells

Stem cells are of the following different types:

  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Adult Stem Cells
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Mesenchymal stem cells

Embryonic Stem Cells

The fertilized egg begins to divide immediately. All the cells in the young embryo are totipotent cells. These cells form a hollow structure within a few days. Cells in one region group together to form the inner cell mass. This contains pluripotent cells that make up the developing foetus.

The embryonic stem cells can be further classified as:

  • Totipotent Stem Cells: These can differentiate into all possible types of stem cells.
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells: These are the cells from an early embryo and can differentiate into any cell type.
  • Multipotent Stem Cells: These differentiate into a closely related cell type. E.g., the hematopoietic stem cells differentiate into red blood cells and white blood cells.
  • Oligopotent Stem Cells: Adult lymphoid or myeloid cells are oligopotent. They can differentiate into a few different types of cells.
  • Unipotent Stem Cells: They can produce cells only of their own type. Since they have the ability to renew themselves, they are known as unipotent stem cells. E.g., Muscle stem cells.

Adult Stem Cells

These stem cells are obtained from developed organs and tissues. They can repair and replace the damaged tissues in the region where they are located. For eg., hematopoietic stem cells are found in the bone marrow. These stem cells are used in bone marrow transplants to treat specific types of cancers.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

These cells have been tested and arranged by converting tissue-specific cells into embryonic cells in the lab. These cells are accepted as an important tool to learn about the normal development, onset and progression of the disease and are also helpful in testing various drugs. These stem cells share the same characteristics as embryonic cells do. They also have the potential to give rise to all the different types of cells in the human body.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells

These cells are mainly formed from the connective tissues surrounding other tissues and organs, known as the stroma. These mesenchymal stem cells are accurately called stromal cells. The first mesenchymal stem cells were found in the bone marrow that is capable of developing bones, fat cells, and cartilage.

There are different mesenchymal stem cells that are used to treat various diseases as they have been developed from different tissues of the human body. The characteristics of mesenchymal stem cells depend on the organ from where they originate.

Applications of Stem Cells

Following are the important applications of stem cells:

Tissue Regeneration

This is the most important application of stem cells. The stem cells can be used to grow a specific type of tissue or organ. This can be helpful in kidney and liver transplants. The doctors have already used the stem cells from beneath the epidermis to develop skin tissue that can repair severe burns or other injuries by tissue grafting.

Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease

A team of researchers have developed blood vessels in mice using human stem cells. Within two weeks of implantation, the blood vessels formed their network and were as efficient as the natural vessels.

Treatment of Brain Diseases

Stem cells can also treat diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. These can help to replenish the damaged brain cells. Researchers have tried to differentiate embryonic stem cells into these types of cells and make it possible to treat diseases.

Blood Disease Treatment

The adult hematopoietic stem cells are used to treat cancers, sickle cell anaemia, and other immunodeficiency diseases. These stem cells can be used to produce red blood cells and white blood cells in the body.

Sources of Stem Cells

Stem Cells originate from different parts of the body. Adult stem cells can be found in specific tissues in the human body. Matured cells are specialized to conduct various functions. Generally, these cells can develop the kind of cells found in tissues where they reside.

Embryonic Stem Cells are derived from 5-day-old blastocysts that develop into embryos and are pluripotent in nature. These cells can develop any type of cell and tissue in the body. These cells have the potential to regenerate all the cells and tissues that have been lost because of any kind of injury or disease.

To know more about stem cells, their types, applications and sources, keep visiting BYJU’S website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem-cell therapy is the use of stem cells to cure or prevent a disease or condition. The damaged cells are repaired by the generated stem cells, which can also hasten the healing process in the injured tissue. These cells are essential for the regeneration and transplanting of tissue.

What are totipotent stem cells?

Stem cells have the capacity to self-renew and differentiate into specialized cell types. Totipotent stem cells come from an early embryo and can differentiate into all possible types of stem cells.

What are the four types of stem cells?

The four types of stem cells are the embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells

What are adult stem cells?

Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells taken from tissues and developing organs. They can replace and restore damaged tissues. Example – hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow.

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