The 411 on Stem Cells & Growth Factors: What Are Stem Cells
“The future of medicine lies in understanding how the body
creates itself out of a single cell and the mechanisms by
which it renews itself through life.”
--Stanford School of Medicine
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks – cells from which all other cells are generated. These cells are not yet performing any specialized function but have the potential to transform into a specific cell type such as brain, cartilage or skin cells. They are unique and no other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.
There are two types of human stem cells: embryonic and adult.
· Embryonic Stem Cells – compose the early human embryo and have the ability to develop into any type of cell in the human body.
· Adult Stem Cells - are found in small numbers in mature organs and tissues throughout the body such as bone marrow. A more precise term is somatic stem cell, meaning “of the body”. Emerging evidence suggests that adult stem cells are able to create unrelated types of cells. For instance, bone marrow stem cells may be able to create muscle cells.
More recently, another source of stem cells has been exposed:
· Adult Cells altered to have properties of embryonic stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells or IPS) – By altering the genes in the adult cells, researchers can reprogram the cells to act similarly to embryonic stem cells. This new technique may help researchers avoid the controversies that come with embryonic stem cells, and prevent immune system rejection of the new stem cells.
Researchers are exploring the ability of these cells to replenish or repair damaged or abnormal organs and tissues in the body. When this goal is achieved the ability
to replace damaged tissues and help the body regenerate itself
could potentially cure diseases!