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What are the Stem Cells

If we had to summarize the value of stem cells in one word, it would be their "dynamic" and that is because stem cells hold great potential and an unlimited dynamic – they are not only the building blocks of our organs and tissues, of our blood and our immune system, they also have the capacity to develop into different types of cells in the human body.

The different cell types in the body all derive from stem cells - "stem" of them – this is actually how they got their name.
Their unique features are the main reason why stem cells are considered one of the major revelations of the last decades, especially in the field of regenerative medicine as they can help in the treatment of many diseases.
When transplanted into the body of a patient, stem cells can repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, thereby improving the patient's health and, in many cases, saving its life.

Stem cells can be isolated from various sources such as bone marrow, embryos that are created by in vitro fertilization, the amniotic fluid, blood and umbilical cord tissue, fat, and even from the blood of menstruation.

Stem Cells in summary

  • They are cells in their most original form
  • There have no specific role or function (specialization)
  • They can renew themselves or differentiate into other cell types   (Read More)
  • Depending on the environment, they are converted into the type of cells needed e.g. if found in the heart they will turn into heart tissue

Stem cells exist in:

  • the fetus throughout pregnancy
  • blood and tissue of the umbilical cord at birth
  • in specific adult tissues, such as bone marrow, fat, and the dental pulp

Stem cells are classified according to their ability to differentiate into different cell types:

Totipotent -a stem cell that has the ability to differentiate into all cell types of an organism. Examples include the first few cells after the division of the zygote, the beginning of fetal life.
Pluripotent - a stem cell that has the capacity to differentiate into almost all cell types. Examples include embryonic stem cells.
Multipotent - a stem cell that has the capacity to differentiate into a closely related family of cells. Examples include hematopoietic stem cells HSC and mesenchymal stem cells MSC.
Oligopotent - a stem cell that has the capacity to differentiate into limited cell types.
Unipotent - a stem cell that has the capacity to differentiate into one cell type. Example: muscle stem cells.

Plasticity of stem cells 
Moreover, several studies in the past years dealt with how different types of stem cells, under appropriate conditions, differentiate into other cells, of different tissue, even if it was not initially programmed for that.

This phenomenon is called plasticity and is another extremely important property of stem cells that facilitate cell therapies.

Therefore, many research groups report how they managed to drive e.g. the cord blood stem cells to turn into completely different cell types such as liver cells, lung cells, cells secreting insulin and C-peptide as those of the pancreas, nerve cells, etc.

What is moreThere is no doubt about the direct and the potential medical benefits deriving from the use of stem cells, including new therapies to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, there are ethical concerns about some of the sources of these cells and, primarily, for embryonic stem cells, i.e. derived from embryos created through IVF and not used.
The blood and the tissue of the umbilical cord, dental pulp and adipose tissue, which mycells deals with, are not embryonic stem cells and, therefore, are not controversial.
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