Stem cells are the body's raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated.
Stem cells may be derived from several sources:
Embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos and are thought to hold the most potential, because these cells can give rise to virtually any specialised cell in the human body.
Adult stem cells are present in adult tissues such as the bone marrow, brain and blood but are limited in potential relative to embryonic stem cells.
Cord blood stem cells are derived from cord blood and are thought to hold enormous potential in treating diseases
Stem cells are important for living organisms for many reasons. They offer new potential for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease. In some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, muscle, and brain, discrete populations of adult stem cells generate replacements for cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury, or disease.
Stem cells have several unique properties that separate them from other cells:
- They are unspecialized cells.
- They can proliferate or self-renew, which means they are capable of replenishing themselves for long periods of time by dividing.
- They can differentiate into specialised cells such as a nerve or heart cell.
A stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant) is a medical procedure in which diseased bone marrow is replaced by highly specialized stem cells that develop into healthy bone marrow.
Autologous, in which the patient receives his or her own stem cells.
Allogeneic, in which stem cells are donated by another person
Stem cell transplantation is a procedure that is most often recommended as a treatment option for people with leukemia, multiple myeloma, and some types of lymphoma. It may also be used to treat some genetic diseases that involve the blood.
Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. It is the next chapter of organ transplantation and uses cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply.
Researchers grow stem cells in a lab which are later manipulated to specialize into specific types of cells, such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells. These specialized cells can then be implanted into a person