February 7, 2023

What Are Stem Cells and How Are They Used?

Wondered what stem cells are and how they are used? The human body has many different cell types. The majority of them are specialized to perform specific functions like the red blood cells are responsible to carry oxygen across the body through blood, but cannot be divided.

On the other hand, stem cells are cells with the unique capability to transform into specialized cell types. In the future, they can be used in replacing lost or damaged cells and tissues.

They have unique properties so –

  • They can divide multiple times and generate new cells.
  • On division, they can transform into other cell types in your body.

Different stem cell types or sources

  • Embryonic stem cells – The cells that are got from 3 -5 days old embryos are called embryonic stem cells. The embryo at this stage is called Blastocyst. There are approximately 150 pluripotent stem cells capable to divide and change into specialized cells. Embryonic stem cells are versatile and used to repair or regenerate diseased organs or tissues.
  • Adult stem cells – In adult tissues like the fat or bone marrow, these stem cells are present, but in a small amount. The ability to develop a variety of cells in the body is limited in adult stem cells. According to recent research, bone marrow stem cells can create heart muscle or bone cells. Currently, adult stem cells are in the clinical trial phase associated with heart or neurological disease.
  • Induced pluripotent – ‘iPS cells’ are lab-made stem cells. Induced means made in a lab after taking normal adult cells like blood or skin cells and reprogramming them to transform into stem cells.

You can learn more about how it is used to treat Osteoarthritis at stemwell.co.

Image Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/regenerative-medicine-gm1334489810-416591482?phrase=Stem%20Cells

What is the use of stem cells?

For stem cell research

Research on stem cells is associated with –

  • Understanding how human bodies grow & develop.
  • Finding ways to use stem cells in damaged or lost tissue/cell replacement.
  • Studying how cells become specialized to perform a specific function. What will happen to the disease if this process goes wrong?
  • Understanding the development of stem cells will help to replicate the process of creating new tissues, cells, and organs.
  • Growing organ and tissue structures from stem cells to study how they function as well as how different drugs affect them.

For stem cell therapy

  • Genetic conditions, diseases, and injuries can permanently damage tissues, cells, and organs. Stem cells are a way to generate new cells, which can be transplanted to replace the lost damaged cells.
  • Adult stem cell therapy helps to treat specific conditions. For example, blood stem cells are a great source for treating blood conditions. During treatment, the patients struggling with cancer and thalassemia have already lost blood stem cells. Skin stem cells help patients with severe burns generate new skin.
  • AMD or age-related macular degeneration is a disease, where there are chances of sight loss because retinal pigment epithelium cells stop working. Induced pluripotent stem cells are used to produce and replace damaged RPE cells with a new one.

There is a lot of study, research, and debates going on regarding stem cells’ potential in treating a variety of diseases.