What are stem cells?
Stem cells can multiply and have the potential to differentiate or take a specialized function. In many tissues in the body, stem cells help with internal repair by dividing without limit so that they replenish other cells that are damaged or dead.
How they Work?
After a stem cell divides, the newly formed cells may remain as just stem cells or they could become another cell with a specialized function for example, a brain cell, a muscle cell, or a red blood cell. Stem cells tend to be different from other cell types because they multiply through in what is called cell division. They can regenerate and increase in number, even after remaining inactive for long periods.1
Also, stem cell can undergo changes to help assist organs or regenerate tissue that is damaged. For example, in an important organ like the brain that requires additional cells to keep it functioning and repair itself, you find that a group made of up stem cells may change and become specialized brain cells that help replace brain tissue and restore brain functions that have been lost.
Regardless of the source of stem cells, they exhibit three properties:2
- Stem cells can divide and renew for a long period of time. Unlike specialized cells like nerve cells, blood cells, brain cells, or muscle cells, stem cells can proliferate or replicate themselves many times. Specialized cells don’t usually replicate themselves.
- Stem cells aren’t specialized meaning that they don’t have structures specific to a particular tissue that would allow them to perform a specialized function. For example, stem cells can’t transport oxygen molecules like red blood cells do.
- Stem cells can become specialized through differentiation. In this process, they go through various stages before they become fully specialized.
In the past, scientists thought that stem cells to be used for transplants would only be obtained from bone marrow cells or embryo cells, however today it has been found that cord blood provides just as effective stem cells as the bone marrow. And, it presents fewer risks while also being less invasive to extract the stem cells. 1
Keywords: stem cells; source of stem cells; cord blood
- What is Cord Blood? Understanding Stem Cells. https://www.cordbloodbanking.com/cord-blood/
- Stem Cell Basics I. https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm