When you hear about stem cell research, you may have questions about what exactly a stem cell is. What are stem cells? How do they differ from other cells in your body? By understanding the stem cells definition, you will be able to recognize the potential uses of the cells in medicine.
Stem Cells Definition | Basics of Stem Cells
What Are Stem Cells?
When the topic of stem cells comes up, you may wonder what they are. How do you define stem cells? A simple way to think of the cells is as unique and useful cells. They are able to become any cell in your body. The versatility of the cells sets them apart. Unlike specialized cells, stem cells do not yet have an assigned function.
Their ability to become any type of cell means they can help heal many conditions. Your body uses these cells as a system of repair. They fix your body when other cells break down by becoming the type of cells you need. It is a natural system of healing that occurs in every human body. When doctors recommend a stem cell treatment, they use stem cells to help your body heal. They may use your own cells or they may take cells from a donor. The donor cells must have specific markers to prevent your body from rejecting the cells.
Stem Cell Reproduction
A key aspect of stem cells that differs from other cells is the process used for duplicating cells. A stem cell has the ability to become any other type of cell in the body. When it goes through asymmetric division, it creates two daughter cells. The daughter cells are the type of cell your body needed. For example, it produces two blood cells rather than one blood cell.
The process differs slightly from traditional replication of cells. It does not simply split in two. It becomes two new cells in your body. That allows your body to rebuild new cells at a faster rate.
The Potential Use of Stem Cells
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The potential for stem cell uses in medicine is constantly changing. Doctors use stem cells to help with certain cancers. Stem cells are particularly useful in blood-related cancers. They also use the treatment to help your body recover after undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments.
Research into stem cells for diabetes treatment is showing promise. It may help reduce the risk of serious health conditions when you or a loved one has diabetes. In some cases, it also helps with the production of insulin.
Stem cells are also used to treat other problems in your body. For example, a doctor may use stem cells to help with organ treatments. If you have a kidney problem, then stem cells may assist.
The research into stem cells is still a work in progress. Scientists and doctors continue to seek new ways to use stem cells. There are findings showing stem cells may help with a variety of medical conditions by aiding systems in their recovery process.
Where do You Find Stem Cells?
While you can use stem cells, you need to understand where doctors obtain the cells. A common option for stem cells is bone marrow. Many stem cell treatments come from bone marrow donations. Adult donations of bone marrow do not have controversy associated with their use. That allows medical professionals to more freely research and identify potential uses of these cells.
Adults may also donate adipose stem cells, which doctors derive from fat cells in the body. Adipose stem cells may not have as many applications in medicine as other types of stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells come from an embryo. Obtaining the cells requires the termination of the embryo. This type of stem cell is controversial due to different religious beliefs. Science and medicine do not use embryonic stem cells for many studies. Since it raises concerns among different religious groups, treatments from most doctors do not use embryonic stem cells.
The cells are also found in umbilical cord blood. Stem cells from cord blood are often used in medical treatments. Doctors consider cord blood a waste product after the birth of a child. Since doctors obtain the blood after a birth, it is not controversial when associated with stem cells research and use.
Watch this video by Life Noggin to know what can stem cells do:
Stem cells play an important part in medical science. Doctors are finding new ways to use the cells and to improve medical treatments. Since the cells have the ability to become any type of cell, the study and application of stem cells in medicine have the potential to address several health conditions.
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