What are stem cells?

Stem cells are capable of further dividing and thus giving rise to daughter cells with different and definite characteristics, as well as retaining the abilities of renewing themselves. Stem cells are formed shortly after fertilization. They are the building-blocks of the body. There are many types of stem cells. Hence, they are broadly named into groups according to their source and functions: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and are taken from 5 to 7 day-old embryos. These cells are capable of forming tissues of all embryonic germ layers including endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. Adult stem cells have been identified in various organs including bone marrows, adipose tissue and skin, etc. Adult stem cells are multipotent and can differentiate into limited numbers of mature cell types depending upon the tissue type they reside.

To know how organisms grow and maintain their integrity throughout life, stem cells research is of great importance. By understanding how damaged cells are being put back again with new cells produced from stem cells, there is a potential that stem cells may serve as a cell therapy to repair complex damaged tissues caused by trauma and disease. Many animal experiments on stem cells are being carried out. To date, most of the clinical studies of stem cell involve the transplantation of autologous stem cells which are taken from the patients themselves.



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