Nowadays, it’s not weird to hear the word “stem cell” in current affairs programs – but do you know what they really are?
Stem cells are cells that have two important properties:
- Regeneration : in other words, these cells are able to create new stem cells themselves.
- Ability to divide into one or more cell types.
The more cell types a stem cell can change, the greater its ability to divide. Using this feature, we can classify different stem cell types.
Stem cell division
Distribution is only the process of adapting the morphological and functional properties of certain cells. This process arises when a stem cell adapts to the characteristics of the genetic assays of the cell it replicates. The division ultimately expresses only the genes of a particular cell.
Once a new genetic configuration is born, the stem cell gradually fades the characteristics of that target cell. After cell division, the result is a fully functional division cell.
Stem cell classification
One of the most widely used methods for classifying stem cells is related to its ability to divide.
So there are four types:
- Totipotentit. These cells have the greatest ability to divide. They are able to create an entire body, including the embryonic layers (endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm), which are tissues formed by the placenta. The only human totipotent stem cell is the zygote. A zygote is formed when sperm fertilize an egg.
- Pluripotents. Pluripotent cells can create three embryonic cells, but they are unable to form an entire body. For example, a pluripotent stem cell may divide into muscle fiber (a cell type derived from the mesoderm) or a tooth (a cell type derived from an ectoderm).
- Multipotents. From this group of stem sols we can find blood and nerve stem cells. They can create individual cell layers. Blood stem cells can divide into any blood cell: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
- Unipotent. These cells are only able to divide into one type of cell and have the worst division ability in this group. A good example of this type are epidermal stem cells located in the surface layer of our skin.
What can stem cells do?
In medicine and research, the interest of stem cells lies in their ability to divide. They offer tremendous potential to solve the greatest puzzles in science that are still a burden on people today.
Below we have listed several examples:
- Better understanding of disease progression. In many cases, we know exactly what causes the disease. We know, for example, that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the accumulation of certain proteins that are involved in the architecture of the brain. However, we do not know how this process will develop: when will it take place? Why? How does it affect nerve function in the early stages of the disease? The answers to all these questions could be found using stem cells. By dividing stem cells into neurons with in vitro diagnostics, scientists can completely renew the disease. Thus, they are able to reveal exactly what happens in the long-term process of the disease.
- Creating healthy cells to replace diseased cells. This is also known as a “regenerative medicine”. It can work in many cases. For example, when a person suffers from a third-degree burn, he or she must undergo a skin graft. Using stem cells from a patient’s own skin, scientists can create new epidermal tissue to cover the damaged area.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug. As we all know for sure, new drugs must pass many tests before they can be placed on the market. One such test consists of human experiments. Using stem cells, we can use in vitro diagnostics to create internal microenvironments that are very similar to humans and can be used for experimental purposes. For example, scientists could test a new drug to treat heart disease in heart tissue created from stem cells.