Stem cells are such types of cells that can be differentiated and have the potential of growing into different types of cells. Additionally, they play the role of repairing damaged cells in the body of mammals through their division that replenishes such affected units. With each division, a stem cell can either remain as it is or become of other type of cell. Thus, scientists have been working with it making it perform different functions (National Institutes of Health). Due to their regeneration into different cells, stem cells have offered researchers a possibility of treating different types of diseases such as heart problems or diabetes (Scholer 28). However, such work is still being developed in the laboratory with the aim to understand how these cells can be used in regenerative medicine. Therefore, this paper discusses stem cells, their characteristics and why they are important to scientists in different areas of research.
Stem cells are of two classes. The first one is referred to as a pluripotent one, which gives rise to all types of cells within the body except the ones required for the support and development of a fetus in the uterus. On the other hand, multipotent cells are only used to develop a smaller number of different cells (Tuch 720). These types can be derived from different sources. Human embryos that are only a few days old can be used to get pluripotent stem cell lines in the laboratory. Non-embryonic stem cells are present in many tissues and organs. Each tissue possesses a very small amount of multipotent stem cells that have a limited capacity for enlargement. Hence, it is difficult to generate them in a large number. Each tissue has an area referred to as a stem cell niche, where stem cells reside without dividing till their activation by either an injury or a need for more cells (Tuch 719).
The main reason why scientists want to use stem lines is that of their immortality. Once a stem cell line is established, it cannot die. As a result, scientists using it will not have to develop any other line. Specific stem cells can be used in the lab indefinitely, and cells harvested can be stored or even distributed for use to other researchers. Additionally, scientists can engineer these cells for different transplants or the treatment of diseases (Scholer 28).
All stem cells have two common properties that define them. First, they have the ability to go through cell division without changing their state, and it is referred to as self-renewal (Scholer 28). The latter is aided by two mechanisms, namely, obligatory asymmetric replication and stochastic differentiation. Additionally, all stem cells have the ability to differentiate into specialized cell types (Scholer 28). This property is referred to as potency.
Two types of stems cells are common, including embryonic and adult ones. As the name suggests, the first are cells that are received from the embryo, particularly from eggs fertilized in vitro and then used for research (National Institutes of Health). On the other hand, adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that live in differentiated ones of any organ or tissue (National Institutes of Health). They can regenerate and form specialized cells of the said part of the body. Embryonic and adult stem cells have similar and different traits. One of the main differences between these two classes is that the first can be differentiated to form all cell types in the body, while the second are limited to becoming specialized cells of only that tissue or organ where they originate. Additionally, it is easy to grow embryonic cells, while culturing adult ones is challenging. The main similarity found in these types is that they both have the likeliness of being rejected after transplant.
By definition, induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells that have been reprogrammed genetically to become like embryonic ones (National Institutes of Health). It is done by forcing the cells to express factors and genes that are crucial in showing the processes of embryonic stem cells.
Research has shown that human stem cells can be used for several purposes (Scholer 28). First, human embryonic stem cells can describe events that occur during human development. Additionally, by observing how cell division takes place, researchers can gain an understanding of diseases attributed to this process and differentiation such as congenital disabilities and cancer (National Institutes of Health). They can therefore develop therapies to curb these problems. However, to achieve this, several obstacles need to be overcome, including the mimicking of precise conditions in the body to develop correct drug therapies.
Doctors and scientists are elated about human embryonic stem cells due to the potential that they have in several sectors of medical research. Studying cell division helps them to understand the development of humans (National Institutes of Health). Additionally, embryonic stem cells can be used to develop tissues and cells for medical therapies (Tuch 720). Stem cell research continues to offer hope for the treatment of many diseases. However, most forms of cure are still at trial stages, and more research needs to be conducted.
In conclusion, research on stem cells needs to be continued by different researchers. It can lead to further breakthroughs related to stem cells. The latter have been observed to be of huge importance in the medical field. Due to research, several conditions like cancer or congenital disabilities that arise due to cell differentiation and division can be understood, and necessary therapies can be applied. Additionally, for people needing different organs, their tissues can be replicated. Scientists have also been able to learn how human development occurs by studying these types of cells.