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Learn Biology: Stem Cells

Over 1.25 million app downloads! Mahalo biology expert Mary Poffenroth discusses the latest trends in Stem Cell Research. What are Stem Cells? --------------------------------------------------------------------- A stem cell is a human cell that hasn't reached its full potential yet. Stem cells act as the body's raw materials. It is possible for stem cells to generate other cells with specialized characteristics. When kept in the right conditions at the laboratory or in the body, every stem cell gets divided into more cells, referred to as daughter cells. The daughter cells can be stem cells or specialized cells with definite functions such as?brain,?blood, bone and?heart?muscle cells. Stem cells are unique as no other body cells have the ability of generating other cell types naturally. According to researchers, stem cells can be used in medical therapies for Parkinson's disease,? multiple sclerosis, disorders in human heart valves and to treat many other diseases. Once stifled by the Bush Administration for religious and moral reasons, stem cell research was given the green light for federal funding under the Obama Administration, who found its scientific potential outweighed any religious or moral objections. Consequently, scientists hope to come across more therapeutic properties of stem cells through their research in years to come. Major Classifications --------------------------------------------------------------------- Based on their sources stem cells can be classified as embryonic, fetal,?umbilical cord, placenta and adult stem cells. adult stem cells are not as desirable for therapeutic application as they've already received pre-programming. The stems cells that are used mostly for therapeutic applications are the embryonic and fetal stem cells. Differentiating Ability --------------------------------------------------------------------- Stem cells can be divided into three categories depending on their differentiating ability. The first one is a totipotent stem cell, which is found only in early embryos. Each totipotent stem cell can lead to formation of a complete organism, such as?identical twins. The second kind is the pluripotent stem cell. They are found in the blastocyst's undifferentiated inner cell mass. Pluripotent stem cells can form all 200 of the cell types found in the body. The final type is the multipotent stem cell which is obtained from adult stem cells, cord blood and fetal tissues. The differentiating ability of multipotent stem cells is less compared to that of the pluripotent stem cells, but the former has already proved its worth in cell-based treatments. Stem Cell Transplant --------------------------------------------------------------------- The process of stem cell transplant involves infusion of healthy stem cells into a patient's body. This therapeutic procedure is needed when an individual's bone marrow fails to work properly and does not generate the required number of healthy stem cells. Stem cell transplant helps the body in producing enough healthy red blood cells, while blood cells and platelets and also diminishes the possibilities of being affected by conditions like anemia, bleeding and other life threatening infections. The process mainly involves replenishment of healthy blood producing cells in the body. The procedure is also often referred as umbilical cord blood transplant or bone marrow transplant depending on the source of the stem cells. These transplant procedures can use stem cells taken from the patient's own body (autologous transplant) or from a donor's body (allogenic transplant). Read more by visiting our page at:
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