Adult stem cells (ASCs) are undifferentiated stem cells that exist in tissues and organs. They have two main characteristics. First is that they can self-renew for long periods of time. Second is that they can give rise to specialized mature cells. The main use of adult stem cells is maintaining and repairing tissues that have sustained damage.
What You Need to Know About Adult Stem Cells
1. Where Are They Found?
Adult stem cells are found in a specific area in tissue called a stem cell niche. Various organs and tissues are home to many ASCs. These include brain, bone marrow, and heart, among many others. However, they only exist in small numbers. Their ability to divide is limited when they are extracted from their niche. This limitation poses problems to experts because it is difficult to study and utilize them in treatment or therapy. When researches succeed, this study may have the ability to regenerate bones, treat type 1 diabetes, and repair damaged heart muscles.
2. How Do You Identify Them?
Experts use more than one method to identify adult stem cells. These methods include labeling cells while in living tissue and labeling them while in a cell culture. Experts then ensure that a single adult stem cell produces genetically-identical cells. These identical cells give rise to differentiated cells of the tissues in which they are found.
3. What are Their Main Characteristics?
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Their defining properties are self-renewal and multipotency. The ability to self-renew is seen through being able to maintain a differentiated state even after going through a number of cell divisions. While the differentiation is the ability for the stem cell to give rise to various distinct cell types.
4. What are the Types of ASCs?
- Bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are sources of hematopoietic stem cells that give rise to all blood cell types
- Carcinogenesis of the breast involves the use of mammary stem cells that induce growth of the mammary gland
- The base of the stem cell niche is the source of intestinal stem cells responsible for the cell linings of the small and large intestines
- The placenta, adipose tissue, and bone marrow, among others, are sources of mesenchymal stem cells that can differentiate into several types of tissues
- The bone marrow is a source of endothelial stem cells that are rare multipotent cells and can differentiate into cells that line blood vessels
- Neuronal and glial cells that behave like stem cells are differentiated from neural stem cells and are typically cultured in vitro
- The nose is a source of olfactory adult stem cells
- Hair follicles are a source of neural crest stem cells that generate neurons and other cells
- The testicles are a source of multipotent stem cells.
5. What Role do ASCs Play in Treatment?
Adult stem cells are used for bone marrow transplants. Treatments have utilized blood stem cells, an ASC, since the 1960s. Transplants also use neural stem cells albeit in small numbers. There is also use for these cells in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury. Their general purpose is to repair tissues or form functioning tissues.
6. What are the Problem Areas in ASCs?
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Adult stem cells come in small numbers. ASCs also deteriorate with age. However, they can be artificially reverted back to their embryonic stem cell-like state as demonstrated by studies. This study was done in 2006 in an attempt to slow down human aging.
The Audiopedia shares its short clip on adult stem cells, what they are, and what they do:
Adult stem cells are rare and important cells that play a role in maintaining and repairing tissues in the body. Its rarity poses problems to experts as it limits the study of these type of cells. Nevertheless, bone marrow transplants have widely used these cells.
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