Even if you know next to nothing about regenerative medicine, you've probably heard about stem cells. Stem cells are what allows all multicellular organisms to grow from a single cell to an adult. They also continuously replace other specialized cells that are worn out or damaged, which allows us to heal from broken bones, cuts, and other injuries. They are also defined by their ability to create exact copies of themselves in a process known as self-renewal. It is these properties that make stem cells important not just to our own growth and development, but to the entire field of regenerative medicine. Stem cell research may be a controversial subject, but researchers believe that it can help us develop new treatments for everything from neurological disorders to cancer.
Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies and the techs on call 24/7/365. They highly specialized cells that make up our organs and tissues originally came from an initial pool of stem cells that formed shortly after fertilization (EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS). Throughout our lives, we continue to rely on persisting stem cells to repair injured tissues and replace cells that are lost every day in billions, such as those in our skin, hair, blood, and the lining of our gut.
Stem cells can be broadly defined by two characteristics, their capacity to self-renew (divide in a way that generates more stem cells) and to differentiate (to turn into mature, specialized cells that make up our tissues and organs). There are many different types of stem cells that come from different places in the body or are formed at different times in our lives. These include embryonic stem cells, which exist only at the earliest stages of development and various types of “tissue-specific” or “adult” stem cells that appear during fetal development and remain in our bodies throughout life.
The primary purpose of stem cells is to maintain, heal and regenerate tissue wherever they are in your body. This is a continuous process that occurs throughout life. Adult stem cells can be isolated and replicated from your own body fat, and then injected back into an area that needs healing or regeneration.