Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First of all, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division. Second, under certain physiological or experimental conditions, they can be specialized to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, such as the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions. Scientists discovered ways to get embryonic stem cells from early mouse embryos in 1981. The in depth study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery, in 1998, of a method to get stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in a laboratory. These cells are named human embryonic stem cells. The human embryonic stem cells used in these studies were created for research purposes and has from then on led to controversial issues surrounding them.
Stem cells may have the potential to be grown to b...
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