Stem Cells

Stem Cells



Stem Cells

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into diverse cell types. Stem cells cannot perform specialized functions as they do not have any tissue specific structures. They function as repair cells in their ability to replenish other body cells in a living body. Stem cells differ from other cells because of their ability to divide and renew themselves. The divided cells can be stem cells or other types of body cells with specialized function. The cells undergo the process of differentiation, which enables them to give rise to specialized cells. Scientists have found a way of making tissue and organ specific cells. Stem cells in some organs such as the pancreas can only replicate under specialized conditions. However, stem cells in other organs such as the bone marrow replicate frequently (NIH, 2009).

Stem cells undergo asymmetric replication, and this gives them the ability to separate into different types of tissue. Most controversy surrounding stem cell research concerns the use of embryonic cells. Some scientists prefer using stem cells from the human embryo, and this has caused much contention. They have discovered that embryonic stem cells can replicate many times for a year without differentiating. Their pluripotent nature gives them the ability to become all types of cells in the body. In addition, it is easy to grow the embryonic stem cells in culture. However, this is not the only source of stem cells. Adult stem cells or somatic cells can be derived from different sources including hair and skin follicles, umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, adipose tissue, and peripheral blood (Branski et al., 2009). Adult stem cells can include hematopoietic stem cells, which bring about all blood cells; mesenchymal stem cells, neural brain stem cells, epithelial stem cells found in the digestive tract, and skin stem cells. Adult stem cells are limited, and they can only differentiate into respective tissue or organ cells. The process of isolating adult stem cells is hard. Moreover, scientists have not found a way of increasing the number of adult stem cells using cell culture (NIH, 2009).    

Scientists have taken advantage of the regenerative qualities of the stem cells to research on how they can be used in the treatment of injuries and diseases. They have researched on the possibility of researching the cells to regenerate bone, repair damaged heart, and develop cells for producing insulin. Stem cells from the bone marrow are easy to retrieve, and they can differentiate into different types of tissues and cells such as skin, lung, and liver epithelium. Research shows that these types of stem cells have the potential of healing wounds (Branski, 2009). Other researchers have focused on studying stem cells from the umbilical cord blood. These cells are easier to obtain, more pluripotent, and more flexible genetically compared to those from the bone marrow (Dasari et al., 2007). The stem cells can maintain tissue repair and researchers are studying how such cells can be used in the treatment of neural diseases. This is useful in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Research indicates that using stem cells from the umbilical cord blood can improve the functionality and neurology of rats with spinal cord injuries.

Researchers are looking at the different possibilities of using stem cells to understand human development, treatment of wounds and injuries, and treatment of serious medical conditions such as cancer and birth defects. Gaining more knowledge and understanding of stem cells is crucial. This is because conditions such as cancer occur because of abnormal cell division. Once people know how the abnormal cell division occurs, then they will be able to understand the method of treatment. Research into stem cells will make medications safer. Researchers can use the cells to test new drugs for side effects and find ways of improving them. This will make the drugs more effective and safer (NIH, 2009).


Branski, K. L., Gauglitz, G. G., Herndon, N. D., & Jeschke, G. M. (2009). A Review of Gene and Stem Cell Therapy in Cutaneous Wound Healing. Burns, 35(2), 171-180

Dasari, R. V., Spomar, G. D., Gondi, S. C., Sloffer, A. C., Gujrati, M., Rao, S. J., & Dinh, H. D. (2007). Axonal Remyelination by Cord Blood Stem Cells after Spinal Cord Injury. Journal of Neurotrauma, 24(2), 391-410

NIH. (2009). Stem Cell Basics. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from

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