Stem Cells


What are Stem Cells?


The term stem cells were coined by Theodor Boveri and Valentin Haecker in the late 19th century[1]. Stem cells are cells with the potential to form many of the different cell types found in the body. When stem cells divide, they can form more stem cells or other cells that perform specialized functions. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to form a complete individual, whereas adult stem cells can only form certain types of specialized cells. Stem cells continue to divide as long as the individual remains alive. Stem cells also can repair the damaged cells.


Stem cells are different from other cells in the body in three ways:

They can divide and renew themselves over a long time.

They are unspecialized, so they cannot do specific functions in the body.

They have the potential to become specialized cells, such as muscle cells, blood cells and brain cells.


Classification of Stem Cells


Stem cells can be divided into embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells according to their origin. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the early stages of an embryo and are capable of differentiating into any type of body cell. Adult stem cells can be extracted from most tissues in the body, including the bone marrow, fat, and peripheral blood. They can also be isolated from human umbilical cords and placental tissue. Common types of adult stem cells are mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cells. Based on functional diversity, stem cells can be divided into totipotent stem cells, pluripotent stem cells and unipotent stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can differentiate into various types of cells, and are a self-renewing resource. Scientists can conduct experiments with an unlimited number of pluripotent cells in order to improve the process of targeted differentiation and transplantation of personalized medicine.


Fig.1 The morphology of different stem cells(Picture from and


Stem Cell Therapy


Have you heard about stem cell therapy? It's a promising treatment option that's gaining popularity.The application of stem cells in therapy is broad. Tissue regeneration 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. And adult bone marrow cells guided to become heart-like cells can repair heart tissue in people. In terms of blood disease, 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. More applications for stem cells remain to be explored.



Fig.2 The operation of stem cell therapy (Picture from







[1] Atala A, Lanza R (2012). Handbook of Stem Cells. Academic Press. p.452.

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