Facts About Stem Cells
Although they are popular, little is really known about stem cells, especially in what they can do. However, researchers have already uncovered some facts about them which will be further discussed in this article.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells, to put it simply, are ‘unspecialized’ or ‘primitive’ cells that have unique characteristics- traits that are just not found in any other cell in the body.
The reason why they are called unspecialized is due to the fact they are cells that do not have a specific function yet. They have yet to change into cells that have a set developmental path.
A prime example of this would be the heart cells. The cells that are present near the said organ is able to regulate the beating of the heart as well as making sure that it beats properly as well.
There are many types of stem cells. The Embryonic Stem Cell can be found in an embryo. Whenever a sperm and an egg cell combines and starts fertilizing, they will form an embryo. That embryo contains stem cells that are Totipotent or has the ability to change into any of the cell types that are currently present in the human body.
The other type of stem cell is the adult stem cell. Also known as Somatic stem cells, these cells are able to transform only to the cells where they originate from. For example, bone marrow stem cells can turn into bone marrow stem cells only.
The process of changing into a specialized cell with a specific function is known as differentiation.
Why Do They Have So Much Importance?
Stem cells are quite important to our bodies because of two reasons.
One, it has the ability to divide indefinitely which can be used to create a treatment plan for people who are suffering from various medical conditions, most especially the ones that suffer from tissue damage.
Two, because it can divide indefinitely and turn into specific cells, stem cells can regenerate damaged tissues in the body with relative ease. When given enough time and when given the right conditions, the stem cells could potentially create a new organ to replace the old and damaged organs in the body!
The Different Types of Stem Cells
I’ve already discussed the two main types of stem cells, but there are also other types as well (albeit, not as commonly used as the former two). They are:
- Peripheral Blood Stem Cells– Also known as the PBSC, this type of stem cell can be extracted from a blood sample. It gives birth to a variety of different cells including the red blood cells, platelets, granulocytes, and lymphocytes.
- Umbilical Cord Stem Cells– These cells are derived from the amniotic fluid that is present inside the umbilical cord of a newborn child. Although they have the ability to differentiate into different cells, the cells it can turn into is very limited.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells– Because the use of embryonic stem cells is highly controversial, scientists have devised a way to turn some somatic stem cells into induced pluripotent stem cells; stem cells which have nearly the same characteristics to that of the embryonic stem cells. It can divide indefinitely and it has the power to turn into any cell you can think of (provided it is found in the human body, of course).
Stem Cell Applications
The use of stem cells is plenty. It can be used for research purposes and it can be used as a treatment protocol as well.
In fact, bone marrow transplants are quite common and this procedure has been known to restore the bone marrow cells that are lost due to chemotherapy.
It does have plenty of potentials to treat various diseases, although it is still being researched for its effectivity and most especially, its safety.