CellsStem cells are individual cells that have a high level of plasticity. This plasticity means that they can grow or transform into not only other cells, but also tissue and even organs that the body requires. While a stem cell is initially useless, they act like a blank cell that can be converted to perform any number of tasks within the body. Stem cells are abundant in embryos and very young infants, and until recently it was believed that they were only present in bone marrow and skin within adults. However, recent research has shown that adult stem cells are also present in the brain randomly surrounded by millions of other cells that cannot be disturbed.

Pluripotent Stem Cells

After fertilization a single cell is produced called the zygote. This cell then divides into two, and each of the remaining cells also divide into two. This continues until there are approximately 150 cells about 5 days after conception. At this stage there are two types of cell present, the trophoblast and the inner cell mass. The inner cell mass, or embryonic stem cells, mature and form other cells, tissue and even organs. Because there are basically no limits to what these stem cells can become they are called pluripotent stem cells.

Multipotent Stem Cells

Once we reach maturity, the number of stem cells found within our bodies decreases massively and while they are still present they are more difficult to find and have become more rigid than pluripotent stem cells. By this time they have started their transformation to the type of cell they will eventually be even though they may be currently lying dormant. Stem cells are found in small numbers within bone marrow and these stem cells can form specialist blood cells but nothing else. Bone marrow transplants are regularly used to help people who suffer from blood related diseases such as leukemia and anemia but the amount of donors is far less than the number of patients who require a transfusion.

What Does The Body Use Stem Cells For?

At a very young age, and certainly before birth, stem cells are used to create virtually everything the body needs and damage can usually be rectified effectively by the stem cells that are present. However, because adult stem cells show less plasticity, they are usually unable to help in the fight against certain diseases and afflictions. Skin and the liver can naturally mend if slight damage is done because the body has stored stem cells for this purpose. However, this isn’t always the case. Cancer, Parkinson’s and many other different diseases can not be cured by the body itself, but by implanting stem cells this will become possible.

Obtaining stem cells

Previously it has been necessary to undergo a bone marrow transplant in order to receive new stem cells, and this technique is limited to only a few diseases. However, researchers have discovered that stem cells are not only present in adult bone marrow but also in embryos, umbilical cord blood, baby teeth and even the amniotic fluid. Much of the research carried out on stem cells is being met by a great deal of controversy, especially concerning embryos and unborn children but the fact remains that the answer to curing many previously incurable diseases looks likely to lie within stem cells.