What are stem cells?
By definition, stem cells are “an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cell arise by differentiation.” As you know that every cell in the body have a specific purpose. Yet specific role of the stem cells is still unknown. These cells can develop into any kind of cell that is required. They are also considered as the repair system of the body.
There are three main types of stem cells:
Embryonic Stem cells:
These cells are obtained from the early stages of an embryo. They have the ability of differentiating into any type of body cell. These supply new cells for the growth and development of an embryo into a baby. Embryonic stem cells can change into any cell in the body (pluripotent).
Adult stem cells:
Adult stem cells generate different type of cells specific for an organ or a tissue they live in. They supply new cells as an organism grows and replace damaged ones. They are more specialized than embryonic stem cells. For example hematopoietic stem cells can only replace different types of cells present in blood.
Induced pluripotent stem cells:
Scientist derive induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) in laboratory, using adult stem cells and converting them to behave like embryonic stem cells in laboratory.
Stem Cell Therapy
“Use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition.”
Currently the most exciting area of biomedical research is Stem cell biology. Stem cells therapy plays a wide role in the development of restorative medicine. Studying stem cells may help explain how serious conditions such as birth defects and cancer come about.
Stem cells provide great hope in therapeutics. Hence, it is necessary to provide scientific evidence on the safety and effectiveness of their usage. There is a need to overcome several challenges to convert experimental lab studies into clinical applications. Scientist should be able to isolate and identify stem cells form the patients’ tissues correctly. Immune rejection is another major challenge. Hence, transplanted stem cells face severe host responses.
Finally, treatment of complex diseases such as cancer or neurodegenerative disorders involves targeting multiple defective pathways simultaneously which hints at the necessity to search for combinatorial therapies.