What are stem cells? What are their uses?

The stem cell preservation is one of the medical fields that witness a large number of researches nowadays. Stem cells are a kind of undifferentiated cells found in the body of multicellular organisms. Also known as root cells, they can develop by new stem cells through mitosis and also differentiate into other types of cells. The new stem cells developed through mitosis will have the same characteristics of their parents. They can continue as stem cells or can convert into a different type of cell as well.
The word stem cell was coined by Russian scientist Alexander Maksimov in 1908. It was in 1981 when the scientists extracted the stem cells for the first time. The embryonic stem cells were derived by Martin Evans, Matthew Kaufman and Gail R. Martin from mouse. Then in 1998, the first human stem cells were extracted as well.
The stem cells don’t have definite shape or structure. They show great ability for differentiation even after a long period of time. There are two kinds of stem cells; Embryonic stem cells and Adult stem cells. The embryonic cells are developed from blastocysts about 4-5 days old. They are then grown through special medium and subjected to various experiments. This mode of growing cells in labs is called cell culture. Apart from this, the embryonic cells can be also taken from the umbilical cord blood just after the childbirth. The adult stem cells are found in the grown organs or tissues. They are also called somatic stem cells. The major sources of adult stem cells are adipose tissues, blood and bone marrow. Recently, the scientists have also discovered that it is possible to extract stem cells from teeth.

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Since new cells can be derived from stem cells, they have made a huge impact in medicine. With the help of stem cells, cure be developed for all diseases triggered by the damaging of cells. This is called stem cell therapy. The stem cells work by repairing damaged part of the body.
It has been proved that the stem cell therapy is useful for many diseases like cancer, lung diseases, liver degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral hemorrhage, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. On the basis of their use, stem cells can be divided into three main types; Totipotent cells which can turn into any type, Pluripotent which can turn any type except placenta and Multipotent which can turn only to some types.
In 2010, the scientists of Wake Forest University, London grew a liver from stem cells. Two years later a group of scientists from Gothenburg University of Sweden developed a vein as well. British scientist John Gordon and Japanese scientist Shimna Yamanaka shared the 2012 Physiology Nobel Prize for converting ordinary cells to stem cells.
Like blood donation, stem cells can also be donated. Many hospitals and laboratories have now facilities to store stem cells. Usually people between 18 and 35 are allowed to donate stem cells.
Additional reading:
Stem cell (Wikipedia)

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