The question What are stem cells? is cropping up more and more in the mainstream as a result of increased research publicity about the compelling findings relating to health. We present a simple answer to the question.
Stem Cells are highly adaptable biological cells that haven’t been differentiated but can turn into specialised cells. They can also create more stem cells through a process called mitosis, which is when a cell divides.
Mammals have tow kinds of stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells
- Adult stem cells
Stem cells form the ultimate substitutes in the processes of life, able to step in and play the part of specialist cells at a moments notice. Embryos are full of all-purpose ‘pluripotent’ stem cells, but we all maintain a population of adult stem cells, who’s more limited repertoire is used for repairing damage.
Exactly how stem cells perform their duties is still being worked out. What is known is that they congregate in so-called niches, exposed to proteins that communicate the condition of the cell around them. At key stages of the development of the embryo, or following disease or injury in adult organisms, these proteins activate the stem cells, switching on genes for the specific role they’re required to play.
Once the mission of the stem cell has been completed – doing some like repairing a wound – the stem cell niche goes back to its monitoring role, and awaits the next call for its service.
Stem cells can be sourced from three areas within adult humans:
- Adipose tissue and the lipid cells
- Bone Marrow