Stem cell

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Stem cells are unspecialized cells which have a remarkable ability to differentiate to any type of body cells during early life and growth. There are two main types of stem cell; pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESC) derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst and adult stem cells which are found in differentiated tissues throughout the body, (such as brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, skin and liver). Their role is to maintain and repair tissue cells[1]. After stem cells divide, the daughter cells can either remain as stem cells or differentiate into specialsed cells. Once stem cells become terminally differentiated they maintain their specialised character even if their environment changes[2][3]. Another type of stem cell is totipotent, meaning they can differentiate into any kind of cell listed above in addition to placental tissue and other extra-embyonic tissue. Multipotent cells can differentiate into a specific cell type only, closely related to the cell itself. For example, hematopoetic stem cell are found in the blood marrow. They differentiate into many different types of blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells). Lastly, unipotent stem cells cannot differentiate, they self-renew.

Stem cells can be used for therapeutic uses in order to treat different diseases and disorders such as Stargardt's disease. This disease causes degeneration of the retina, leading to progressive loss of sight. This condition can be treated using healthy stem cells, in place of the dead retinal cells[4][5][6].

References

  1. Stem Cell Information, The national institutes of health resource for stem cell research. Available at: http://stemcells.nih.gov/. Accessed 20 of November 2010
  2. Stem Cell Information, The national institutes of health resource for stem cell research. Available at: http://stemcells.nih.gov/. Accessed 20 of November 2010
  3. What are stem cells from "Medical News today" which can be accessed at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/stem_cell/
  4. BioNinja; 2016; (http://ib.bioninja.com.au/standard-level/topic-1-cell-biology/11-introduction-to-cells/stem-cells-2.html)
  5. Cafasso, Jacquelyn; Stem Cell Research; Healthline; reviewed by the University of Illinois, College of Medicine, April 6, 2016; (https://www.healthline.com/health/stem-cell-research#uses)
  6. What is Stargardt's disease?; NIH- National Eye Institute; last reviewed April 2015;(https://nei.nih.gov/health/stargardt/star_facts)
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