Pluripotent stem cell

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Pluripotent stem cells are the second of the four forms of embryonic stem cells. These forms are derived by level of potency, their ability to differentiate. Pluripotent stem cells are harvested from the three germ layers of a developing blastocyst. This means they have the ability to differentiate into any cell associated with these three layers but are unable to differentiate into placenta or umbilical cord cells[1].

The cells are harvested within 14 days of conception. Often they are taken from unused IVF specimens with consent from the donors. These harvested cells can then be placed under specific laboratory conditions to begin dividing and replicating. Millions of pluripotent stem cells can be produced this way, within a matter of months[2].  

Any form of stem cell research is highly controversial and requires strong ethical guidelines. Scientists have developed a way to produce pluripotent stem cells from adult stem cells using a combination of gene expression and other techniques[3]. These are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPs). They can be cultured in a laboratory, are easier to gain approval for, are more readily available and help reduce the ethical conundrums of using embryonic cells.

Pluripotent stem cells are used for research and development in many areas such as tissue growth. By studying the ordinary development of pluripotent stem cells we can gain a greater understanding of how diseases such as cancer develop. This can have a substantial effect on how we create or improve treatments[4].


  1. Boyle,M. Senior,K. (2008) p433-435. Human Biology. 3rd edition. London: Harper Collins Publishers Limited.
  2. National Health Institute. (2009). Stem cell basics [online]. Available at: [Accessed:09/11/2013]
  3. National Health Institute.(2009).Stem cell basics[online].Available at: [Accessed:09/11/2013]
  4. Boyle,M. Senior,K. (2008) p433-435. Human Biology. 3rd edition. London:Harper Collins Publishers Limited.
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