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What is a Stem Cell?

What is a Stem Cell?

A stem cell is an unspecialized cell that can develop into specialized cell types in the body eg blood cells, muscle cells, fat cells etc. Stem cells are capable of dividing and renewing themselves over long periods of time, without becoming specialized, so they form a kind of cell «reservoir». Think of a stem cells as rolls of fabric from which you can make any garment you want according to your needs.

The body has many different types of cells. Stem cells have 2 special features:
1. They can divide repeatedly to make new cells.
2. When they divided they can choose what type of cell to become according to the needs of the body.

 

There are 3 main types of stem cells:
1. Embryonic SC
2. Somatic/Adult SC
3. Induced pluripotent SC (IPSC)

 

Embryonic stem cells come from embryos that are only 3-5 days old. These are the cells that enable the blastocyst, i.e. the collection of cells that will become all the different specialized cell types needed to make the fetus and baby. Embryonic stem cells are «pluripotent» ie they can become any cell type.

Adult stem cells supply cells that allow an animal to grow and they are also used to replace cells that are damaged. Adult stem cells are found in bone marrow ( mesenchymal stem cells) and fat ( adipose derived stem cells ADSC). Adult stem cells are «multipotent» ie they can become many different types of cells in the body, but not all types of cells, eg they cannot become nerve cells.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, as the name suggests are made in the laboratory from normal adult stem cells. They are «reprogrammed» to make them behave like embryonic stem cells.

 

How Does a Stem Cell Know What type of Cell to Become?

Every cell in the body holds ALL the «instruction manuals» ie the gene sequences to potentially become any specialized cell. Signals fro the microenvironment of the tissues tell the cell which of the «instruction manuals» i.e. gene sequences to read. This then enables the stem cell to initiate the modifications necessary to make it a specific type.

Treatments of joints and skin at Regenerative are based upon stem cells and growth factors.

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