Where can you find stem cells?
Stem cells are found in multicellular organisms like animals and plants. They are biological cells. They are very important for any living thing. Stem cells are different from other types of cells.They have a unique capability to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They work as an internal repair system. They divide without limit in a living multicellular organism to replenish the other cells. Each stem cell has a potential to retain its quality as a stem cell or they become specialized cells – called as pluripotent cell – to do a specialized function.
They have two important characteristics. These characteristics distinguish stem cells from other cells. The two important characteristics are:
- Stem cells are capable of renewing themselves. Even after long periods of inactivity, they renew themselves through cell division. They self-renew themselves to produce more stem cells. A stem cell which is kept in a laboratory can replicate many times and yield millions of cells. Stem cells are capable of long-term-self-renewal.
- Stem cells can be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells and can be used to perform some special functions and serve as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. When induced, they repair and replace the worn out or damaged tissues, by dividing themselves.
These stem cells are important for any living organisms. There are many reasons why they are important for a multicellular organism which is alive. In a blastocyst (3 to 5 day old embryo is known as blastocyst) stem cells help develop the entire body of the organism which includes specialized cell types and organs such as the heart, lung, skin, sperm, eggs and other tissues. They also replace cells that are lost because of usual wear and tear.
Stem cells are taken from numerous sources like umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. Stems cells are now artificially grown and then they are transformed into specialized cell types. These artificially grown stem cells have the same characteristics as stem cells. The transformation is done through cell culture.
Stem cells are used in medical therapies. These therapies are known as regenerative or reparative medicine. They are also known as cell-based therapies. With their regenerative abilities, stem cells can be used to treat diabetes and heart disease.
So far, researches have been done primarily on two kinds of stem cells from animals and human. They are :
- Embryonic stem cells and
- Non-embryonic or adult stem cells.
With the ongoing studies of stem cells in the laboratories, scientists are able to learn about the essential properties of stem cells and the reason about their unique characteristics. Scientists are using stem cells to screen new drugs. They are trying to develop model systems to study normal growth and identify the causes of birth defects.
Research on stem cells reveals new findings about how a multi organism develops from a single cell and how a damaged cell is replaced with a healthy cell in adult organisms.
No doubt, stem cell research is the most fascinating one in the contemporary biology. But just like any other new discovery, there are many scientific questions to be answered about stem cells.