Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What are Stem Cells?

What exactly are stem cells?

These are cells that are called undifferentiated cells, since they have the potential of becoming almost any cell in the body. When a stem cell divides, they can remain an undifferentiated stem cell or become a differentiated or specialized cell, such as a brain cell, red blood cell, a muscle cell and so on.

Types of Stem Cells

There are three basic types of stem cells:
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Adult Stem Cells
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cells come from embryos, which are organisms in the early stages of development before birth or hatching. These cells can become any cell type in the body. In the embryo, these cells are numerous and are easily grown in cell cultures.

Adult Stem Cells

Adult stem cells, which are less numerous than embryonic stem cells, are found among differentiated cells in body organs and tissues. Their purpose is to maintain and repair damaged tissue.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to act like an embryonic stem cell.

Cardiac Stem Cell Research

Medical scientist have traditionally used bone marrow stem cells to try to repair damaged heart muscle. New research, however, is finding good success at repairing damaged heart muscle with cardiac stem cells.

One of the reasons for this new success is that cardiac stem cells are already programmed to form heart muscle. These stem cells are obtained from the heart patient and multiplied in a lab. The multiplied stem cells are then infused back into the heart of the patient.

Patients with infused cardiac stem cells have been showing significant improvement in their heart muscle capability. The researchers are currently trying to duplicate their results with a larger number of patients. If proven successful, it will be a huge advance in cardiac treatment.

Related Links:

American Heart Association - "Aged, Damaged hearts yield stem cells that could treat heart failure."
Science Daily -"Stem Cells That Could Treat Heart Failure"
CNN - "Stem Cells Reverse Heart Damage"
"Stem Cell Information"


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