Stem Cell Types:

Human life starts from one cell, a single fertilized egg that makes all the different type of the cells in our body.  This initial sing cell has all of the human’s genetic information that can develop into a new individual.  During the early step of cell division, which involves mitotic cell division, one cell become two cells; and then after second division, two cells become four cells, etc.

Each of these individual cells of early development is called undifferentiated, means are not specialized.  Although it contains all of the genetic makeup, but it is 'blank state' or unprogrammed cell that does not have a specific body function, however, it has the capability to contribute to all of the organs in an individual. These cells are called totipotent, means their potential is 'total'.

o  They have the ability to develop into any cell found in the human body, including embryonic tissue.

o  They have the ability to replicate in unlimited numbers without losing their total potency

These cells are embryonic stem cells (ES cells) or pluripotent stem cells (PS cells), meaning that under the right conditions, they can generate a viable embryo.

o  ES Cells have both the capacity to self-renewal, thus maintaining a continuous supply of stem cells.

o  ES Cells have ability to differentiate and give rise to specialized cell types, such as liver cells or brain cells. These new cells are used to repair or replace damaged or diseased cells in the body.

There are two other types of stem cells, fetal stem cells that are derived from tissue of a developing human fetus and adult stem cells that can be isolated from some tissues of the adult body. For example bone marrow is a rich source of stem that can be used to treat some blood diseases. Adult stem cells can renew itself and can differentiate to produce more specialized cell type of the tissue or organ. However research has shown that adult stem cells have limited ability to expand in large numbers of differentiate into a wide variety of cell types. (university of Wisconsin)

A more detailed primer on stem cells can be found at http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics.

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