Stem Cells in a Nutshell
Stem cells have become quite popular for so many years now and you might be interested to know a lot more about them. Well, that is going to be the subject for this article, so read on ahead to find out some interesting tidbits about stem cells.
What Are They?
You could say that stem cells are the body’s raw materials. In fact, we are actually made up of many different cells ourselves. Your skin? That is made up of skin cells. Your brain? That is actually made up of neural cells. Your other organs are also pretty much made up of cells as well.
However, the cells that are present in our organs are pretty much Specialized in that they already do a specific function.
The stem cells, on the other hand, are unspecialized as they have the power to turn into specialized ones when they’re needed.
They are found in the different parts of the body. Heck, they can even be extracted from a source other than your body as well such as from an Umbilical cord blood or even some early day embryos.
Stem cells actually have a few characteristics that separate them from the normal specialized cells. In a suitable environment, they can create daughter cells that have the ability to proliferate indefinitely (known as Self-renewal) and they also have the power to become specialized cells as well (known as Differentiation).
Why the Sudden Interest?
Stem cells have been used for so many years, but to this day, it is still being researched specifically on stem cell research by countless scientists from all over the world. The reasons are plenty:
- Using stem cells can give scientists a firmer grasp of how diseases occur in the first place.
- Researchers want to tap the full potential of stem cells for use in the treatment of various mental conditions. In fact, there’s even a study that involves stem cells that were used to treat blindness! It still needs further testing and studies, but the possibility is there.
- There are new drugs being churned out on a yearly basis. And, for ethical standards, you just cannot administer that to a person without having to suffer some dire consequences. Stem cells can be utilized to test investigation and new drugs for its safety and effectiveness. This is due to the fact that the cells can be programmed to mimic human tissue.
You can pretty much find stem cells in the different areas of our bodies, but here are some pretty common ones:
- Embryo- Embryonic stem cells are acquired from Blastocysts which are embryos that were created in vitro. These are 3-5 days old embryos and the stem cells are extracted from such. This remains to be a controversial source of stem cells because once it has been harvested from this source, the embryo is pretty much useless afterward.
- Adult Stem Cells- The bone marrow and the bloodstream are actually prime sources of stem cells. Adult or Somatic stem cells are just cells that were derived from our bodies. Remember the Specialized cells I’ve discussed earlier? They are actually made up of stem cells after they’ve turned into specific cells. Research is still ongoing about stem cells because recent studies suggest that it can actually turn into other cells in the body as well (similar to embryonic stem cells).
- Perinatal Stem Cells- These stem cells are extracted from the blood that is present in the umbilical cord of a newborn child. This is rich in embryonic stem cells which are favored to be the best kind.