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Stem Cells

Image shows replication and differentiation of stem cells

What are they?

Stem cells are progenitor cells found throughout all multicellular organisms including plants and mammals. They act as an inherent repair system, replenishing damaged cells and tissues daily.

With each division, each cell gives rise to more stem cells which exist as undifferentiated or “non-specific,
immature” cells and can also differentiate into more specialised or “mature” cell types depending on their external environment.

Different types of Stem Cells

Not all stem cells are created equal. Stem cells can be classified into two major subtypes, those being embryonic, and adult stem cells. Biologically, stem cells that are collected from fetal tissue such as the umbilical cord or umbilical cord blood are also classified as adult stem cells. A third category also includes induced pluripotent stem cells where normal somatic cells are reprogrammed into stem cells.

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Adult Stem Cells

Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can be found throughout the body within various organ systems. These cells maintain the integrity of different tissue types. They are often found among differentiated cells, replenishing these more specialized cells once they have reached the end of their life cycle. While adult stem cells also possess the unique properties of self-renewal and differentiation according to their surrounding niche, they are more limited than their embryonic counterparts in terms of the cellular subsets that can be formed. Their differentiation capacity is therefore somewhat defined by their tissue of origin.

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MSC

factors and functions of mesenchymal stem cells

Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Of specific interest, for the purpose of applying stem cells in medical treatments, are Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). MSCs are multipotent, self-renewing progenitors that are defined by their ability to differentiate into adipocytes (fat), chondrocytes (cartilage), and osteocytes (bone).

MSC’s have been discovered in various species and can be isolated from numerous tissue sources including adipose (fat), placental tissue, dental pulp, bone marrow and peripheral blood to name a few.

 

Recent research has also shown that these cells also have the ability to differentiate other mature cell lineages to produce cardiomyocytes (heart muscle tissue), endothelial cells (walls of blood vessels), hepatocytes (Liver cells), and neural cells (nerve tissue). MSCs also have an immunomodulatory effect, making them particularly useful in research involving autoimmune diseases.

 

This also allows for the allogeneic use (single species) of MSCs and even xenogeneically (inter-species). Research has demonstrated how MSCs can be utilized in the treatment and management of various degenerative diseases.

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