What are stem cells and their characteristics

Stem cells are those that are capable of generating new cells in our body, totally effective. There are two types: stem cells of embryonic origin and adult stem cells. One of its functions is to produce blood cells such as white and red blood cells and platelets.

We have all heard about stem cells at some point in our lives, but have you wondered why the topics that revolve around stem cells are so talked about.

Let me tell you that these cells are truly the protagonists of the entire scientific community in recent years, since they are not only being used as a treatment for many diseases, but they can be the definitive solution to deadly diseases by simply generating a tissue or organ of replacement from them.

However, the topic goes beyond that, and in this article we will be learning about what stem cells are, their types and their function . In addition to that, you will learn the characteristics of stem cells and other interesting facts.

What are stem cells and their characteristics

Stem cells, or also called progenitor cells, are known as such because they can give rise to all the types of cells that we have in our body . These cells, as their name suggests, will become the progenitors of countless new cells that will be capable of becoming tissues, organs and, therefore, could even make up a complete individual.

A stem cell can generate a lung, skin, kidney or other organ cell. For this to occur, all that is needed is to guide the cell on its path to specialization. Now that we have an idea about what stem cells are, next we are going to learn what the characteristics of stem cells are:

Stem cells are totipotent cells , this means that they can transform into any cell in our body until they form a new being.

They have the exclusive characteristic of pluripotentiality . This characteristic is exclusive to embryonic stem cells, and means that, through specialization, they can become any cell in our body.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that arise from the cell division phases of the zygote. Undifferentiated cells are the starting point of any tissue or organ in the body.

Types of stem cells

They are the cells in the first phases of embryonic development . These cells are isolated between days 7-14 of development, although they could also occur from day 5 onwards. The pluripotent capacity of this type of stem cells draws the attention of many scientists around the world.

This would mean that they could extract them and grow them in the laboratory to then generate all the types of cells that make up our body.

The cultivation of stem cells means the beginning of a great revolution in medicine, since defective tissues and organs could be repaired with living replacements generated in the laboratory.

Adult stem cells

These types of stem cells are obtained when we are already a complete individual , for example, in adulthood. Adult stem cells are poorly specialized and poorly differentiated cells that help our body when it needs to regenerate and repair itself, for example, when a wound heals, hair grows or skin is renewed.

Adult stem cells are found in small quantities and are distributed in tissues and organs throughout our body, be it the pancreas, heart, skin, muscle, etc. Normally, these cells are asleep until the time comes when they must act .

A characteristic of adult stem cells is that they are multipotent. This means that they can only give rise to cells that belong to the tissue of origin. For example, bone marrow stem cells generate all the cell types present in our blood.

Stem cell function

They produce blood cells such as red and white blood cells and platelets. Very important, since they perform essential functions in the lungs (erythrocytes), in the immune system (leukocytes) or when wounds occur (platelets).

They regenerate various cells in our body, such as bone tissues, cartilage, skin, muscles, etc.

Doctors use stem cells to replace defective cells . They are used in diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, certain types of cancer, etc.

Stem cell transplant

As we mentioned above, stem cells are important because they are capable of generating new, fully effective cells . Due to this great gift that they have, nowadays adult stem cell treatments are very common in therapies against diseases such as leukemia.

In cases of patients with leukemia, stem cells from the bone marrow of a donor are used, so that these new cells replace all the diseased cells. Another alternative could also be to use blood cells from the umbilical cord. This last alternative is less risky, since they are the patient’s own stem cells. What happens when stem cells are donated is that the patient may have rejection problems because something foreign is entering their body.

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