There are different types of human stem cells - each with their own specialized function.
Different types of stem cells come from different places in the body and are formed at different times in our lives. These include embryonic stem cells at the early stages of human development.
There are a variety of ‘tissue-specific’ stem cells that remain in our bodies throughout life. Our bodies use these different types of tissue-specific or specialized stem cells for a very specific biological purpose. Tissue-specific stem cells are limited in their potential and help to produce the cell types found in the tissue from which they are derived.
There are blood-forming stem cells called hematopoietic stem cells in your bone marrow to help regenerate your blood. Neural stem cells in your brain to help make brain cells. Clinics that offer treatments with stem cells use the cells that originate from a part of the body to treat injuries or increase healing ability.
What makes stem cells unique?
What makes stem cells unique is unlike other cells in the human body they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for longer periods and they are capable of giving rise to specialized cell types. Since stem cells are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods, stem cells may replicate many times or proliferate to replace or regenerate other specialized cells like muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells which do not normally replicate themselves. When stem cells give rise to specialized cells, the process is known as differentiation. Stem cells go through several stages of differentiation to become more specialized at each step along the way. The specialized cells can then be used to regenerate other healthy cells of like kind through cell based therapies. Adult stem cells injected tend to generate the cell types of the tissue in which they reside.
Types of Stem Cells There are two main types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic (somatic) or "adult" stem cells. Most modern therapies use adult stem cells for treating injuries and to help induce rapid healing. Using stem cells in cell-based therapies to treat disease and injuries is known as regenerative medicine or reparative medicine. Adult stem cells have been identified in many organs and tissues, including the brain, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, bone marrow, skin, teeth, heart, gut, liver, ovarian epithelium, and testes.
Specific stem cell treatments work on specific diseases or conditions.
Each type of stem cell fulfills a specific function in the body and can be expected to make cell types from similar tissues. Different cell types are needed to be replaced to treat each underlying condition. It is critical that the cell type used as a treatment be appropriate to the specific disease or health condition to be treated. Usually adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells are used to generate treatments for a range of human diseases, health conditions, and to regenerate injured joints and tissue. These specialized stem cell types are usually highly concentrated before transplantation.
- Hematopoietic stem cells give rise to all the types of blood cells: red blood cells, B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, natural killer cells, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and macrophages.
- Mesenchymal stem cells give rise to a variety of cell types: bone cells (osteocytes), cartilage cells (chondrocytes), fat cells (adipocytes), and other kinds of connective tissue cells such as those in tendons.
- Neural stem cells in the brain give rise to its three major cell types: nerve cells (neurons) and two categories of non-neuronal cellsâ€”astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.
- Epithelial stem cells in the lining of the digestive tract occur in deep crypts and give rise to several cell types: absorptive cells, goblet cells, paneth cells, and enteroendocrine cells.
- Skin stem cells occur in the basal layer of the epidermis and at the base of hair follicles. The epidermal stem cells give rise to keratinocytes, which migrate to the surface of the skin and form a protective layer. The follicular stem cells can give rise to both the hair follicle and to the epidermis.
The range of diseases where stem cell treatments have been shown to be beneficial is in blood stem cell transplantation to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system, or to restore the blood system after treatments for specific cancers. Some bone, skin and corneal diseases or injuries can be treated with grafting of tissue that depends upon stem cells from these organs. These therapies are also generally accepted as safe and effective by the mainstream medical community.
Stem cells help patients healing.
Other techniques offered along with stem cell treatment—such as changes to diet, relaxation, physical therapy, medication, etc.—may make a person feel better in addition to stem cell therapy.
Science is developing new therapies for Stem Cells.
Science, in general, is a long and involved process. Understanding what goes wrong in disease or injury and how to fix it takes time. Once therapies are tested in humans, ensuring patient safety becomes a critical issue and this means starting with very few people until the safety and side effects are better understood.How Stem Cell Treatments Help
To be used in treatments, stem cells will have to be instructed to behave in specific ways.
Bone marrow transplantation is typically successful because doctors are asking the cells to do exactly what they were designed to do, make more blood. For other conditions, we may want the cells to behave in ways that are different from how they would ordinarily work in the body. One of the greatest barriers to the development of successful stem cell therapies is to get the cells to behave in the desired way. Also, once transplanted inside the body the cells need to integrate and function in concert with the body’s other cells. For example, to treat many neurological conditions the cells doctors implant will need to grow into specific types of neurons, and to work they will also have to know which other neurons to make connections with and how to make these connections. Doctors are still learning about how to direct stem cells to become the right cell type, to grow only as much as we need them to, and the best ways to transplant them. Discovering how to do all this will take time.
Adult Stem Cells using your own cells
One of the advantages of adult stem cells is you are unlikely to have an immune response to your own cells, the procedures used to acquire, grow and deliver them are increasing in sophistication. As soon as the cells leave your body they may be subjected to a number of manipulations that could change the characteristics of the cells so they need to be properly extracted and processed in a clinical setting. If they are carefully grown in cultures (a process called expansion), the cells will possess the normal mechanisms that control growth or have the ability to specialize into the cell types you need. The cells won't be contaminated with bacteria, viruses or other pathogens that could cause disease. In a clinical setting, the procedure to either remove or inject the cells also carries less risk from introducing an infection to damaging the tissue into which they are injected. Physicians who specialize in Stem Cell Therapy should be used when contemplating treatment.
Stem Cell Injections and Human Growth Hormone Injections
To speed healing to injured areas, many physicians combine Stem Cell Injections with HGH Injections to speed up healing after injury or post operation for a variety of orthopeodic surgical procedures. Joints, muscle tears, knee, hip, wrist, elbow, rotator cuff and other sport's injured areas can benefit from combined growth hormone and stem cell injections.
Stem cell science is constantly moving forward.
Stem cell science is extraordinarily promising. There have been great advances in treating diseases and conditions of the blood system using blood-forming stem cells, and these show us just how powerful stem cell therapies can be. Scientists all over the world are researching ways to harness stem cells and use them to learn more about, to diagnose, and to treat various diseases and conditions. Every day scientists are working on new ways to shape and control different types of stem cells in ways that are bringing us closer to developing new treatments. Many potential treatments are currently being tested in animal models and some have already been brought to clinical trials. In February 2010 the British company ReNeuron announced it had been approved to conduct a Phase I clinical trial of a neural stem cell treatment for stroke. The first embryonic stem cell-based treatment for acute spinal cord injury has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move into Phase I clinical trials. Although it is sometimes hard to see, stem cell science is moving forward. Physicians are tremendously optimistic that stem cell therapies will someday be available to treat a wide range of human diseases and conditions.
Adult stem cell—see somatic stem cell.
Astrocyte—a type of supporting (glial) cell found in the nervous system.
Blastocoel—The fluid-filled cavity inside the blastocyst, an early, preimplantation stage of the developing embryo.
Blastocyst—A preimplantation embryo of about 150 cells produced by cell division following fertilization. The blastocyst is a sphere made up of an outer layer of cells (the trophoblast), a fluid-filled cavity (the blastocoel), and a cluster of cells on the interior (the inner cell mass).
Bone marrow stromal cells—A population of cells found in bone marrow that are different from blood cells, a subset of which are multipotent stem cells, able to give rise to bone, cartilage, marrow fat cells, and able to support formation of blood cells.
Cell-based therapies—Treatment in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell type required to repair damaged or destroyed cells or tissues.
Cell culture—Growth of cells in vitro in an artificial medium for research or medical treatment.
Chromosome—a structure consisting of DNA and regulatory proteins found in the nucleus of the cell. The DNA in the nucleus is usually divided up among several chromosomes.The number of chromosomes in the nucleus varies depending on the species of the organism. Humans have 46 chromosomes.
Clone— (v) To generate identical copies of a region of a DNA molecule or to generate genetically identical copies of a cell, or organism; (n) The identical molecule, cell, or organism that results from the cloning process.
- In reference to DNA: To clone a gene, one finds the region where the gene resides on the DNA and copies that section of the DNA using laboratory techniques.
- In reference to cells grown in a tissue culture dish:a clone is a line of cells that is genetically identical to the originating cell. This cloned line is produced by cell division (mitosis) of the original cell.
- In reference to organisms: Many natural clones are produced by plants and (mostly invertebrate) animals. The term clone may also be used to refer to an animal produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or parthenogenesis.
Cord blood stem cells—See Umbilical cord blood stem cells.
Culture medium—The liquid that covers cells in a culture dish and contains nutrients to nourish and support the cells. Culture medium may also include growth factors added to produce desired changes in the cells.
Differentiation—The process whereby an unspecialized embryonic cell acquires the features of a specialized cell such as a heart, liver, or muscle cell. Differentiation is controlled by the interaction of a cell's genes with the physical and chemical conditions outside the cell, usually through signaling pathways involving proteins embedded in the cell surface.
Directed differentiation—The manipulation of stem cell culture conditions to induce differentiation into a particular cell type.
DNA—Deoxyribonucleic acid, a chemical found primarily in the nucleus of cells. DNA carries the instructions or blueprint for making all the structures and materials the body needs to function. DNA consists of both genes and non-gene DNA in between the genes.
Embryonic germ cells—Pluripotent stem cells that are derived from early germ cells (those that would become sperm and eggs). Embryonic germ cells (EG cells) are thought to have properties similar to embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells—Primitive (undifferentiated) cells derived from a 5-day preimplantation embryo that are capable of dividing without differentiating for a prolonged period in culture, and are known to develop into cells and tissues of the three primary germ layers.
Enucleated—having had its nucleus removed.
Epigenetic—having to do with the process by which regulatory proteins can turn genes on or off in a way that can be passed on during cell division.
Feeder layer—Cells used in co-culture to maintain pluripotent stem cells. For human embryonic stem cell culture, typical feeder layers include mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) or human embryonic fibroblasts that have been treated to prevent them from dividing.
Fertilization—The joining of the male gamete (sperm) and the female gamete (egg).
Fetus—In humans, the developing human from approximately eight weeks after conception until the time of its birth.
Gamete—An egg (in the female) or sperm (in the male) cell. See also Somatic cell.
Gene—A functional unit of heredity that is a segment of DNA found on chromosomes in the nucleus of a cell. Genes direct the formation of an enzyme or other protein.
Germ layers—After the blastocyst stage of embryonic development, the inner cell mass of the blastocyst goes through gastrulation, a period when the inner cell mass becomes organized into three distinct cell layers, called germ layers. The three layers are the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm.
Hematopoietic stem cell—A stem cell that gives rise to all red and white blood cells and platelets.
Induced pluripotent stem cells—Somatic (adult) cells reprogrammed to enter an embryonic stem cell–like state by being forced to express factors important for maintaining the "stemness" of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Mouse iPSCs were first reported in 2006 (Takahashi and Yamanaka), and human iPSCs were first reported in late 2007 (Takahashi et al. and Yu et al.). Mouse iPSCs demonstrate important characteristics of pluripotent stem cells, including the expression of stem cell markers, the formation of tumors containing cells from all three germ layers, and the ability to contribute to many different tissues when injected into mouse embryos at a very early stage in development. Human iPSCs also express stem cell markers and are capable of generating cells characteristic of all three germ layers. Scientists are actively comparing iPSCs and ESCs to identify important similarities and differences.
In vitro—Latin for "in glass"; in a laboratory dish or test tube; an artificial environment.
In vitro fertilization—A technique that unites the egg and sperm in a laboratory instead of inside the female body.
Long-term self-renewal—The ability of stem cells to replicate themselves by dividing into the same non-specialized cell type over long periods (many months to years) depending on the specific type of stem cell.
Mesenchymal stem cells—Cells from the immature embryonic connective tissue. A number of cell types come from mesenchymal stem cells, including chondrocytes, which produce cartilage.
Meiosis—The type of cell division a diploid germ cell undergoes to produce gametes (sperm or eggs) that will carry half the normal chromosome number. This is to ensure that when fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg will carry the normal number of chromosomes rather than causing aneuploidy (an abnormal number of chromosomes).
Microenvironment—The molecules and compounds such as nutrients and growth factors in the fluid surrounding a cell in an organism or in the laboratory, which play an important role in determining the characteristics of the cell.
Neurons—Nerve cells, the principal functional units of the nervous system. A neuron consists of a cell body and its processes—an axon and one or more dendrites. Neurons transmit information to other neurons or cells by releasing neurotransmitters at synapses.
Oligodendrocyte—A supporting cell that provides insulation to nerve cells by forming a myelin sheath (a fatty layer) around axons.
Parthenogenesis—The artificial activation of an egg in the absence of a sperm; the egg begins to divide as if it has been fertilized.
Passage—In cell culture, the process in which cells are disassociated, washed, and seeded into new culture vessels after a round of cell growth and proliferation. The number of passages a line of cultured cells has gone through is an indication of its age and expected stability.
Pluripotent—Having the ability to give rise to all of the various cell types of the body. Pluripotent cells cannot make extra-embryonic tissues such as the amnion, chorion, and other components of the placenta. Scientists demonstrate pluripotency by providing evidence of stable developmental potential, even after prolonged culture, to form derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers from the progeny of a single cell and to generate a teratoma after injection into an immunosuppressed mouse.
Polar Body—A polar body is a structure produced when an early egg cell, or oogonium, undergoes meiosis. In the first meiosis, the oogonium divides its chromosomes evenly between the two cells but divides its cytoplasm unequally. One cell retains most of the cytoplasm, while the other gets almost none, leaving it very small. This smaller cell is called the first polar body. The first polar body usually degenerates. The ovum, or larger cell, then divides again, producing a second polar body with half the amount of chromosomes but almost no cytoplasm. The second polar body splits off and remains adjacent to the large cell, or oocyte, until it (the second polar body) degenerates. Only one large functional oocyte, or egg, is produced at the end of meiosis.
Preimplantation—With regard to an embryo, preimplantation means that the embryo has not yet implanted in the wall of the uterus. Human embryonic stem cells are derived from preimplantation-stage embryos fertilized outside a woman's body (in vitro).
Proliferation—Expansion of the number of cells by the continuous division of single cells into two identical daughter cells.
Regenerative medicine—A field of medicine devoted to treatments in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell type required to repair damaged or destroyed cell populations or tissues. (See also cell-based therapies).
Reproductive cloning—The process of using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to produce a normal, full grown organism (e.g., animal) genetically identical to the organism (animal) that donated the somatic cell nucleus. In mammals, this would require implanting the resulting embryo in a uterus where it would undergo normal development to become a live independent being. The first animal to be created by reproductive cloning was Dolly the sheep, born at the Roslin Institute in Scotland in 1996. See also Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
Signals—Internal and external factors that control changes in cell structure and function. They can be chemical or physical in nature.
Somatic cell—any body cell other than gametes (egg or sperm); sometimes referred to as "adult" cells. See also Gamete.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)—A technique that combines an enucleated egg and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make an embryo. SCNT can be used for therapeutic or reproductive purposes, but the initial stage that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell nucleus is the same. See also therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.
Somatic (adult) stem cells—A relatively rare undifferentiated cell found in many organs and differentiated tissues with a limited capacity for both self renewal (in the laboratory) and differentiation. Such cells vary in their differentiation capacity, but it is usually limited to cell types in the organ of origin. This is an active area of investigation.
Stem cells—Cells with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells.
Stromal cells—Non-blood cells derived from blood organs, such as bone marrow or fetal liver, which are capable of supporting growth of blood cells in vitro. Stromal cells that make the matrix within the bone marrow are also derived from mesenchymal stem cells.
Subculturing—Transferring cultured cells, with or without dilution, from one culture vessel to another.
Surface markers—Proteins on the outside surface of a cell that are unique to certain cell types and that can be visualized using antibodies or other detection methods.
Teratoma— A multi-layered benign tumor that grows from pluripotent cells injected into mice with a dysfunctional immune system. Scientists test whether they have established a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line by injecting putative stem cells into such mice and verifying that the resulting teratomas contain cells derived from all three embryonic germ layers.
Tetraploid complementation assay—An assay that can be used to test a stem cell's potency. Scientists studying mouse chimeras (mixing cells of two different animals) noted that fusing two 8-cell embryos produces cells with 4 sets of chromosomes (tetraploid cells) that are biased toward developing into extra-embryonic tissues such as the placenta. The tetraploid cells do not generate the embryo itself; the embryo proper develops from injected diploid stem cells. This tendency has been exploited to test the potency of a stem cell. Scientists begin with a tetraploid embryo. Next, they inject the stem cells to be tested. If the injected cells are pluripotent, then an embryo develops. If no embryo develops, or if the resultant embryo cannot survive until birth, the scientists conclude that the cells were not truly pluripotent.
Therapeutic cloning—The process of using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to produce cells that exactly match a patient. By combining a patient's somatic cell nucleus and an enucleated egg, a scientist may harvest embryonic stem cells from the resulting embryo that can be used to generate tissues that match a patient's body. This means the tissues created are unlikely to be rejected by the patient's immune system. See also Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
Totipotent—Having the ability to give rise to all the cell types of the body plus all of the cell types that make up the extraembryonic tissues such as the placenta. (See also Pluripotent and Multipotent).
Transdifferentiation—The process by which stem cells from one tissue differentiate into cells of another tissue.
Trophoblast—The outer cell layer of the blastocyst. It is responsible for implantation and develops into the extraembryonic tissues, including the placenta, and controls the exchange of oxygen and metabolites between mother and embryo.
Umbilical cord blood stem cells—stem cells collected from the umbilical cord at birth that can produce all of the blood cells in the body (hematopoietic). Cord blood is currently used to treat patients who have undergone chemotherapy to destroy their bone marrow due to cancer or other blood-related disorders.
Undifferentiated—A cell that has not yet developed into a specialized cell type.
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