somatic stem cell – Learn Genetics


Stem Cells

Stem Cell Quick Reference

Are you confused about all the different types of stem cells? Read on to learn where different types of stem cells come from, what their potential is for use in therapy, and why some types of stem cells are shrouded in controversy.

Researchers are working on new ways to use stem cells to cure diseases and heal injuries. Learn more about unlocking stem cell potential.

Somatic stem cells (also called adult stem cells) exist naturally in the body. They are important for growth, healing, and replacing cells that are lost through daily wear and tear.

Potential as therapy Stem cells from the blood and bone marrow are routinely used as a treatment for blood-related diseases. However, under natural circumstances somatic stem cells can become only a subset of related cell types. Bone marrow stem cells, for example, differentiate primarily into blood cells. This partial differentiation can be an advantage when you want to produce blood cells; but it is a disadvantage if you're interested in producing an unrelated cell type.

Special considerations Most types of somatic stem cells are present in low abundance and are difficult to isolate and grow in culture. Isolation of some types could cause considerable tissue or organ damage, as in the heart or brain. Somatic stem cells can be transplanted from donor to patient, but without drugs that suppress the immune system, a patient's immune system will recognize transplanted cells as foreign and attack them.

Ethical considerations Therapy involving somatic stem cells is not controversial; however, it is subject to the same ethical considerations that apply to all medical procedures.

Embryonic stem (ES) cells are formed as a normal part of embryonic development. They can be isolated from an early embryo and grown in a dish.

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somatic stem cell - Learn Genetics

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