Embryonic and Adult Stem Cells

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Stem cells relate to the person health of an individual. Stem cells have the remarkable ability to develop into many different cell types in the body. Able to be a repair system for the body, they can divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person alive and able to provide nutrients to the cells. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. Stem cells have two important characteristics that distinguishes them from other types of cells. First, they are cells, with no specific function, that renew themselves with cell division. The second is that under certain conditions, they can be “induced” to become cells, such as the beating cells of the heart muscle or the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Scientists primarily work with two kinds of stem cells from animals and humans: blembryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Scientists discovered ways to obtain stem cells from experiments with mouse embryos, more than 20 years ago! (It would seem knowledge of stem cells would be much farther along by now) Many years of detailed study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery, in 1998, of how to isolate stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory. The embryos used in these studies were created for infertility purposes with “in vitro fertilization”. Stem cells are important for living organisms for many reasons. During the first stages of a developing embryo, stem cells organize themselves into a certain order which will give rise to the multiple specialized cell types that make up the heart, lung, skin, and other tissues. In some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, muscle, and brain, adult stem cells are found. These stem cells are used to generate replacements for cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury, or disease. The benefits of stem cells can be great. They can be used to cure many debilitating diseases. In a fairly recent study on the uses of stem cells to regenerate organs, a group of scientists surgically removed the spine of a mouse. After this procedure, the mouse because a quadriplegic. Then the scientists injected embryonic stem cells into the tail of the mouse. The mouse, after about six weeks, regained movement in the arms and legs.

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