Stem cells are a group of cells in our bodies, with capacity to self-renew and differentiate to various types of cells, thus to construct tissues and organs. In science, it is still a challenge to understand how a fertilized egg to develop germ layers and various types of cells, which further develop to multiple tissues and organs with different biological functions. In the battle to fight against diseases, stem cells present potencies to repair tissues by cell therapy and tissue regeneration. The study of stem cells turns to be a major frontier in 21 century biology and medicine.
Some of the major characteristics of stem cells are as follows:
- Stem cells are essential cells that replace damaged cells or cells lost due to diseases.
- These cells are the earliest cells of the cell lineage in all tissues and are found in both embryonic and adult organisms.
- These cells provide a continuous supply of new cells that make up the tissues and organs of animals and plants.
- Stem cells have been of great interest as a therapeutic method for various diseases and conditions.
- The stem cells in the embryonic organism are present in the inner cell mass of the blastocyte, which then differentiates into all other cells in the body.
- The stem cells in adults, however, are localized to specific areas within the body like in the bone marrow and the gonads.
- All stem cells are unspecialized or undifferentiated. These are present as a mass of cells that differentiate later during their period of division.
- Another essential property of stem cells is their ability to differentiate into specialized cells that together make up different tissue types. These cells can be either pluripotent or multipotent.