This post was updated in 2020 and is part of our SCOPE stem cells not lost in translation project. You can learn more about the project and read the other 34 languages on that page.
What are stem cells?
The human body contains hundreds of different types of cells that are important for our daily health. These cells are responsible for keeping our bodies running each day such as making our hearts beat, brains think, kidneys clean our blood, replace our skin cells as they shed off, and so on. The unique job of stem cells is to make all these other types of cells. They are the suppliers of new cells. When stem cells divide they can make more of themselves or more of other types of cells. For example, stem cells in skin can make more of themselves or they can make differentiated cells of the skin that have specific jobs of their own such as making the melanin pigment.
Why are stem cells important for your health?
When we get injured or sick, our cells also are injured or killed. When this happens, stem cells become active. Stem cells have the job of fixing our injured tissues and of replacing other cells when they routinely die. In this way our stem cells keep us healthy and prevent us from prematurely aging. Stem cells are like our own army of microscopic doctors.
What are the different kinds of stem cells?
Stem cells come in many different forms. Scientists think that every organ of our body has its own specific type of stem cells. For example, our blood is made from blood (also known as hematopoietic) stem cells. However, stem cells are also present from the earliest stages of human development, and when scientists grow these, they are called embryonic stem cells. The reason scientists are excited about embryonic stem cells is that the natural job of embryonic stem cells is to build every organ and tissue in our bodies during human development. What this means is that embryonic stem cells, unlike adult stem cells, can be coaxed into potentially forming almost any other of the hundreds of types of human cells. For example, while a blood stem cell can only make blood, an embryonic stem cell can make blood, bone, skin, brain, and so on. In addition, embryonic stem cells are programmed by nature to build tissues and even organs, while adult stem cells are not. What this means is that embryonic stem cells have a greater natural capacity to fix diseased organs. Embryonic stem cells are made from leftover embryos from fertility treatments that are only a few days old, that were made in a dish in a laboratory, and that would otherwise be thrown away.
What are iPS or induced pluripotent stem cells?
Scientists and doctors are excited about this new type of stem cell called iPS cells. The reason we are excited is because iPS cells have almost all the same properties as embryonic stem cells, but are not made from an embryo. Thus, there are no ethical concerns with iPS cells. In addition, iPS cells are made from a patients own non-stem cells, meaning that iPS cells could be given back to a patient without risk of immune rejection, an important issue with any stem cell transplant.
What does the future hold and how could stem cells change how your doctor treats you?
Because by nature stem cells have the job of replacing sick or old cells, scientists have conceived the idea of using stem cells as therapies for patients with a wide variety of medical conditions. The idea here is that by giving a sick patient stem cells or differentiated cells made from stem cells, we can make use of the stem cells natural ability to heal to make the patient healthy again. For example, if a patient has a heart attack, by giving that patient a transplant of stem cells as a therapy our goal is to have the transplanted stem cells repair the damage to the heart. The natural populations of stem cells that we all possess have only a limited capacity to fix injuries to our bodies. Going back to the example of the heart, the hearts own stem cells are just not up to the task of fixing the damage from a heart attack, but a transplant of millions of stem cells would be far more powerful. Therefore by giving patients transplants of stem cells we boost the bodys ability to heal beyond the capabilities of the limited number of naturally occurring stem cells. Some challenges remain to be addressed before stem cell therapies become more common including safety, as stem cells can potentially form tumors, and immune rejection. Even so, stem cells are likely to transform medicine and in perhaps just one or two decades most of us will know someone, perhaps even ourselves, who has had a stem cell transplant. Stem cells hold promise to treat most of the major diseases that people face including cancer, heart disease, Parkinsons Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Huntingtons Disease, spinal cord injury, and many more.
What stem cell treatments are available now and why most doctors recommend that you should only consider those with caution and as a last resort?
Currently, there are few stem cell transplants available that are proven by scientists to be both safe and effective. The best example is bone marrow transplantation. However, many unproven stem cell treatments are being advertised and offered around the world. Often these treatments get a lot of attention in the media, frequently when celebrities such as sports stars get these treatments. Generally, scientists and doctors in the stem cell field caution patients against such treatments because it is unclear whether these treatments actually work and whether they are safe. Patients have died from such treatments. While it is reasonable to consider all options when facing a potentially incurable condition or disease, we recommend that you only consider such treatments as a last resort and only after talking with your personal physician.
By Paul Knoepfler
Note that you may also find this Closer Look at Stem Cells resource page very helpful.
See the rest here:
- Stem cells ppt - SlideShare - July 27th, 2021
- Stem cell therapy for retinal degeneration | BTT - Dove Medical Press - July 27th, 2021
- Stem cells: a brief history and outlook - Science in the News - July 15th, 2021
- Pluripotent Stem Cells 101 Boston Children's Hospital - July 15th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: The Future of Tissue ... - July 15th, 2021
- Stem Cells | National Institutes of Health (NIH) - July 15th, 2021
- Wicker Challenges Biden Administration Over Research Using Aborted Infants - Yall Politics - June 29th, 2021
- Regenerative Medicine Bets on iPS Stem Cells - GoodCell - June 16th, 2021
- Stem Cells - Sigma-Aldrich - June 16th, 2021
- Nobel laureate calls for research funds to solve the mystery of aging : The Asahi Shimbun - Asahi Shimbun - May 26th, 2021
- Kyoto team creates 'killer T cells' that fight cancer without immune reaction - The Mainichi - The Mainichi - May 20th, 2021
- Accelerated Biosciences' Immune-Privileged Human Trophoblast Stem Cells (hTSCs) Offer Breakthrough Opportunities in Cancer-Targeting Therapeutics and... - May 12th, 2021
- The Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market To Witness A Spike Amidst Entry Of New Players - Industry Today - May 7th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) Market 2021 Industry Size, Share, Growth and Top Companies Analysis- Fujifilm Holding Corporation (CDI),... - April 30th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) Market 2021 Is Booming Across the Globe by Share, Size, Growth, Segments and Forecast to 2027 | Top Players... - April 30th, 2021
- Global Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Analysis By Future Demand, Top Players, Industry Share Size, Revenue and Growth Rate Through... - April 30th, 2021
- Global Stem Cell Therapy Market 2020-2027 Trends, industry vertical, along with the geography, delivering valuable insights | Reportspedia Clark... - April 30th, 2021
- Synthego Launches Eclipse Platform to Accelerate Research and Development of Next-generation Medicines - The Scientist - April 16th, 2021
- Global Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPS Cell) Market Report 2021: In Total, At Least 68 Distinct Market Competitors Now Offer Various Types of iPSC... - April 16th, 2021
- Synthego Launches The Eclipse Platform to Accelerate Research and Development of Next-generation Medicines - PRNewswire - April 8th, 2021
- NCRAD: Increasing infrastructure for Alzheimer's disease researchers | National Institute on Aging - National Institute on Aging - April 1st, 2021
- Modeling the Human Lung with Organoids - The Scientist - April 1st, 2021
- Kyoto University to supply iPS cells from COVID-19 survivors for research - The Japan Times - March 26th, 2021
- Mini-brains show why human brains grow larger than those of other apes - New Scientist News - March 26th, 2021
- Key human embryo stage mimicked in the lab - Science Magazine - March 20th, 2021
- Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS Cells) | Thermo Fisher ... - March 18th, 2021
- Science and blastocysts - Cosmos - March 18th, 2021
- Human induced pluripotent stem cells - Takara Bio - March 11th, 2021
- iPS Cell Research // Center for Stem Cells and ... - March 11th, 2021
- What are induced pluripotent stem cells or IPS cells ... - March 11th, 2021
- IPS Cells | Everything You Need To Know | BioInformant - March 11th, 2021
- Glial Cell Discovery Could Point the Way to Motor Neuron Disease Therapies - Technology Networks - March 11th, 2021
- Peer Recognition | The UCSB Current - The UCSB Current - March 11th, 2021
- Fetal Cell Lines Were Used to Make the Johnson & Johnson COVID VaccineHeres What That Means - Health.com - March 5th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Reveal Causes of Disease - Technology Networks - March 5th, 2021
- Pericardial Injection Effective, Less Invasive Way to Get Regenerative Therapies to Heart - NC State News - March 5th, 2021
- Organoids of human lung and brain respond differently to SARS-CoV-2 - BioNews - March 5th, 2021
- Study explores individual differences of SARS-CoV-2 infection in ACE2-expressing stem cells - News-Medical.Net - February 27th, 2021
- Promoting Stem Cell Growth and Self-Renewal In Vitro - The Scientist - February 25th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Growth, Competitive Landscape, Research Methodology, Business Opportunities, Statistics and Industry Analysis... - February 17th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Growth Opportunities, Analysis and Forecasts Report 2020-2026 with key players position (Fujifilm Holding... - February 17th, 2021
- Global Induced Pluripotent Market Positive Outlook, Revenue Generation & Leading Manufacturers, Forecast 2026||CELGENE CORPORATION; Astellas... - February 17th, 2021
- Can we freeze them? Yes we can, says Nkarta - Vantage - February 17th, 2021
- Outlook on the Cell Therapy Global Market to 2027 - Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecasts - Yahoo Finance - February 10th, 2021
- Breakthrough stem cell therapy may reverse life-threatening conditions in dogs - Study Finds - February 10th, 2021
- Global Allogenic Stem Cell Therapy Market Opportunities, Ongoing Trends And Key Players 2027||Thermo Fisher Scientific., Cellular Engineering... - January 24th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) Market to Witness Massive Growth During 2021-2027 | Fujifilm Holding Corporation (CDI), Ncardia, Sumitomo... - January 24th, 2021
- DiNAQOR Acquires EHT Technologies GmbH to Advance Engineered Heart Tissue R&D Capabilities - PRNewswire - January 24th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Segmentation and Analysis by Latest Trends, Development and Growth by Trending Regions 2020 with key players... - January 24th, 2021
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market to Grow with an Impressive CAGR - Farming Sector - January 8th, 2021
- Exacis Biotherapeutics Announces Its Launch and mRNA Technology In-Licensing For Targeted CAR-NK And CAR-T Cell Cancer Therapies | DNA RNA and Cells |... - January 8th, 2021
- Spinogenix Wins Grant to Advance Testing of Potential Oral Therapy - ALS News Today - January 8th, 2021
- The Cell Banking Outsourcing Market to trample recession in the next 10 years - Farming Sector - December 30th, 2020
- Global Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) Market 2020 ... - December 20th, 2020
- Do You Know the 5 Types of Stem Cells? | BioInformant - December 20th, 2020
- Where do stem cells come from? Expert answers - The Niche - December 18th, 2020
- Induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic ... - December 18th, 2020
- Top Technical Advances of 2020 - The Scientist - December 18th, 2020
- Network of Genes Involved in Congenital Heart Disease Identified - Technology Networks - December 17th, 2020
- Epigenetic Changes Implicated in Age-related Diminution in Vision and Its Possible Reversal - JD Supra - December 17th, 2020
- The Promise of Using Cell Cultures To Fight SARS-CoV-2 - Technology Networks - December 17th, 2020
- Global Induced Pluripotent Market 2020-26 Steering Forces Heading Towards Impressive CAGR With CELGENE CORPORATION; Astellas Pharma Inc.; Thermo... - December 17th, 2020
- Fate Therapeutics Reports Positive Interim Data from its Phase 1 Study of FT516 in Combination with Rituximab for B-cell Lymphoma | DNA RNA and Cells... - December 7th, 2020
- Fate Therapeutics (FATE) Reports Positive Interim Data from its Phase 1 Study of FT516 in Combination with Rituximab for B-cell Lymphoma -... - December 7th, 2020
- Researchers restore lost sight in mice, offering clues to reversing aging - Science Magazine - December 7th, 2020
- Bayer and Atara Biotherapeutics in CAR T-cell therapy deal - BioPharma-Reporter.com - December 7th, 2020
- Multiple sclerosis iPS-derived oligodendroglia conserve their properties to functionally interact with axons and glia in vivo - Science Advances - December 6th, 2020
- Repairing the Brain With Stem Cells? A Conversation With Prof. Jack Price - Being Patient - December 3rd, 2020
- Global Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market Size, Comprehensive Analysis, Development Strategy, Future Plans and Industry Growth with High CAGR by... - December 3rd, 2020
- Bayer Launches Cell and Gene Therapy Platform to Maximize Recent Acquisitions - PharmaLive - December 3rd, 2020
- Industry Verticals: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) Market Latest and updated Scope and Application 2020-2027 - The Blend - December 3rd, 2020
- Fate Therapeutics to Host Virtual Event at the 2020 ASH Annual Meeting - StreetInsider.com - December 3rd, 2020
- Stem Cells Market Detailed Analysis by On-going Trends, Prominent Size, Share, Sales and Forecast to 2025 - PRnews Leader - November 18th, 2020
- Coadministration of endothelial and smooth muscle cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells as a therapy for critical limb ischemia -... - November 14th, 2020
- The Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Market To Witness Fierce Competition Amongst The Key Players - KYT24 - November 14th, 2020
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) Market Size, Drivers, Potential Growth Opportunities, Competitive Landscape, Trends And Forecast To 2027 -... - November 14th, 2020
- Proteintech and HebeCell Announce Collaboration on Nanobody iPSC-derived Natural Killer Cells - BioSpace - November 14th, 2020
- Neurons stripped of their identity are hallmark of Alzheimers disease, study finds - Newswise - November 14th, 2020
- Genetic influences on viral-induced cytokine responses in the lung - DocWire News - November 14th, 2020
- Stem Cell Manufacturing Market Share & Size, Future Growth, Trends Evaluation, Demands, Regional Analysis and Forecast to 2027| Merck Group,... - November 14th, 2020