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Other kinds of cell lines are already used in this way. Cancer cell lines, for example, are used to screen potential anti-tumour drugs.

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Not all stem cells come from an early embryo. In fact, we have stem cells in our bodies all our lives. One way to think about stem cells is to divide them into three categories:. You can read in detail about the properties of these different types of stem cells and current research work in our other fact sheets. Here, we give you a short overview of different stem cell types before comparing the progress made towards therapies for patients, and the challenges or limitations that still need to be addressed. Embryonic stem cells ESCs have unlimited potential to produce specialised cells of the body, which suggests enormous possibilities for disease research and for providing new therapies.

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ESCs are what is called pluripotent, that means they can differentiate into any cell type of the body. Human ESCs were first grown in the lab in The cells are derived from a developmental stage, when about cells form a so called blastocyst — a very early embryo.

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But not every experiment requires a new blastocyst. As of October , about different cell lines, each derived from a single embryo, were obtained in Europe source human pluripotent stem cell registry. These cell lines need to be very well characterised for scientists to use them in clinical trials or drug development — another reason which limits the number of embryonic stem cell lines.

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Current challenges facing ESC research include ethical considerations and the need to ensure that ESCs fully differentiate into the required specialised cells before transplantation into patients. It also allows the generation of iPSC cell banks, which would work almost like blood banks, where a matching donor can be found for patients. However, use of iPSCs in cell therapy is theoretical at the moment.

The technology is very new and the reprogramming process is not yet well understood. Scientists need to find ways to produce iPSCs safely and more efficiently. The cells must also be shown to completely and consistently differentiate into the required types of specialised cells to meet standards suitable for use in patients.

Recents Patents for Isolating, Delivering and Tracking Adult Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine

Many tissues in the human body are maintained and repaired throughout life by stem cells. These tissue stem cells are very different from embryonic stem cells. Tissue stem cells, are not pluripotent like ESCS, but multipotent. That means they can only make a limited number of specialised cell types that are specific for their organ of origin; neural stem cells, for example, can only differentiate into specialised brain cells, whereas blood stem cells can only form specialised cells of the blood system. Stem cells are important tools for disease research and offer great potential for use in the clinic.

Stem Cells and Cancer Stem Cells, Volume 2

Some adult stem cell sources are currently used for therapy, although they have limitations. The first clinical trials using cells made from embryonic stem cells have just finished, but further studies are needed before any therapeutics for more patients can be approved. Meanwhile, induced pluripotent stem cells are already of great use in research, but a lot of work is needed before they can be considered for use in the clinic. All other clinical trials rather involve the derivation of iPSCs from patient cells either for disease modelling, drug testing or to increase our understanding of the basic biology of this cell type.

An additional avenue of current research is transdifferentiation — converting one type of specialised cell directly into another. All these different research approaches are important if stem cell research is to achieve its potential for delivering therapies for many debilitating diseases. Types of stem cells and their uses. Factsheets General Stem Cell Knowledge. What are stem cells? What makes stem cells unique? What are the potential applications for stem cell research? Stem cells can be used to study development Stem cells may help us understand how a complex organism develops from a fertilised egg.

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Stem cells have the ability to replace damaged cells and treat disease This property is already used in the treatment of extensive burns, and to restore the blood system in patients with leukaemia and other blood disorders. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues.

Irv Weissman: Differences between Adult and Embryonic Stem Cells

In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions. Until recently, scientists primarily worked with two kinds of stem cells from animals and humans: embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic "somatic" or "adult" stem cells. The functions and characteristics of these cells will be explained in this document.


Scientists discovered ways to derive embryonic stem cells from early mouse embryos more than 30 years ago, in The detailed study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery, in , of a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory. These cells are called human embryonic stem cells. The embryos used in these studies were created for reproductive purposes through in vitro fertilization procedures. When they were no longer needed for that purpose, they were donated for research with the informed consent of the donor.

In , researchers made another breakthrough by identifying conditions that would allow some specialized adult cells to be "reprogrammed" genetically to assume a stem cell-like state. This new type of stem cell, called induced pluripotent stem cells iPSCs , will be discussed in a later section of this document.

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Stem cells are important for living organisms for many reasons. In the 3- to 5-day-old embryo, called a blastocyst , the inner cells give rise to the entire body of the organism, including all of the many specialized cell types and organs such as the heart, lungs, skin, sperm, eggs and other tissues. In some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, muscle, and brain, discrete populations of adult stem cells generate replacements for cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury, or disease.

Given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potentials for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

However, much work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease, which is also referred to as regenerative or reparative medicine. Scientists are already using stem cells in the laboratory to screen new drugs and to develop model systems to study normal growth and identify the causes of birth defects.