Stem Cells

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•  The capacity of stem cells to divide and differentiate along different pathways is necessary in embryonic

   development and also makes stem cells suitable for therapeutic uses

When a cell differentiates and becomes specialised, it loses its capacity to form alternative cell types

Stem cells are unspecialised cells that have two key qualities:

1.  Self Renewal – They can continuously divide and replicate

2.  Potency – They have the capacity to differentiate into specialised cell types

Types of Stem Cells

There are four main types of stem cells present at various stages of human development:

Totipotent – Can form any cell type, as well as extra-embryonic (placental) tissue (e.g. zygote)

Pluripotent – Can form any cell type (e.g. embryonic stem cells)

Multipotent – Can differentiate into a number of closely related cell types (e.g. haematopoeitic adult stem cells)

Unipotent – Can not differentiate, but are capable of self renewal (e.g. progenitor cells, muscle stem cells)

stem cells

Uses of Stem Cells

Stem cells are necessary for embryonic development as they are an undifferentiated cell source from which all other cell types may be derived

Cell types that are not capable of self-renewal (e.g. amitotic nerve tissues) are considered to be non-stem cells

As these tissues cannot be regenerated or replaced, stem cells have become a viable therapeutic option when these tissues become damaged