WHAT IS A STEM CELL?

REGULATORY & COMPLIANCE

Stem cells are unspecialized cells with the ability to renew and divide to become more specialized cells. They are a repair system for the body. These cells may then be used to replace other cells and tissue that have been damaged or lost due to injury or disease.  Doctors and scientists are excited about the potential applications of stem cells in many different areas of medicine.

Why We Need Stem Cells

As we age, our stem cells which are responsible for regeneration and repair, decline in number and function. Healing from injury and disease requires a well-orchestrated regenerative response, with ample healing cells and factors. With age, the quality and quantity of stem cells decline and we no longer have the healing capacity we used to. At birth 1 in every 10,000 cells is a stem cell, by age 60, it’s estimated that only 1 in 2 million cells is a stem cell. As cells become more fragile we start seeing things such as reduced healing time, bone and joint problems, and diseases.


STEM CELL BASICS

MESENCHYMAL STEM CELLS (MSCs)

MSCs are self-renewing, multipotent precursors to other cell types and tissues. Scientists have found MSCs in many tissues from young to old. As we age, we appear to have fewer MSCs with the older MSCs typically behaving differently from the younger MSCs. MSCs have exciting potential and have shown great promise, whether we use our own aged MSCs or a graft from postnatal sources. MSCs have demonstrated indirect local effects (similar to paracrine activity) that appears to be active for many weeks – possibly longer. It is thought that they may be responding to their local environment and, like healthy refreshed soldiers, may be able to effect change and regeneration in a customized way the host cells may no longer be fully capable of. Postnatal tissues have high concentrations of MSCs across multiple compartments/tissues and these MSCs exhibit a more robust secretome and more rapid cell division frequency yet with a lower rate of teratogenesis.

TYPES OF STEM CELLS

Totipotent Stem Cells

Also known as embryonic stem cells, totipotent cells can become extraembryonic (placental cells/tissue). “Totipotent” means that these cells can differentiate into any type of cell or tissue which would indicate vast potential. However, because of the risks of teratoma, this type of stem cell is unsuitable for therapeutics and using it is illegal in the United States.

Pluripotent Stem Cells

Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into any of the cell types in a body. Pluripotent cells give rise to the endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm.

Multipotent Stem Cells

These cells give rise to many types of cells but are more limited than pluripotent cells. Multipotent stem cells are found in postnatal umbilical cord and placenta tissues, as well as in adult tissues. They serve as a reservoir of cells for growth and repair. Each type of multipotent stem cell gives rise to a limited range of cell types. These cells are more difficult to isolate for clinical use but are ethical. Examples of multipotent stem cells include hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC).

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