Stem cell: what it is, characteristics and what it is for
What are stem cells and where are they found: Organisms are complex systems that have the ability to generate entire organisms from a few initial cells and, as adults, have the ability to regenerate their tissues like careful machinery through signaling at the cellular level.
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What is a stem cell
What are stem cells and where are they found: The stem cell, or stem cell, is a type of cell with the ability to generate mature cells more specialized than itself , to form tissues and organs with particular functionalities. It is from these stem cells that all other cells, called daughter cells, are formed . These are morphologically and functionally different from stem cells.
A stem cell can generate a large number of specialized cells, both in variety and number.
There are both embryonic and adult types . The former are located only in embryos of six to eight days of age in humans and build a complete organism, and the adults assist only in cases of tissue or organ damage. In the image you can see an example of an embryonic stem cell.
Where are stem cells found?
What are stem cells and where are they found: In the case of adult stem cells, there are multiple types, so each one is located in different areas, depending on the tissues they will form . For example, stem cells in the bone marrow make blood cells. There are also in the liver, where hepatocytes are formed, in neuronal tissue to form neurons, or in muscle, to name a few. As for embryonic stem cells, these are found within the inner cell mass of the embryonic blastocyst.
Stem cell characteristics: Stem cells are unique in having two key characteristics :
- Potentiality : which means that stem cells can generate mature cells of different origin, for example blood or muscle cells.
- Self-renewing : They can divide and proliferate to generate other stem cells, indefinitely. Their telomeres are longer than already differentiated cells, an important characteristic in their division since cell aging is related to the shortening of telomeres.
Stem cell characteristics: As additional features are:
- They are undifferentiated : they are not mature cells and are undifferentiated.
- They have low immunogenicity : that is, they do not generate an immune response as if it were an external agent.
- They have two types of division : symmetric and asymmetric. In the symmetric one, two stem cells are generated from the division of an initial cell. The asymmetric generates from a stem cell to a differentiated cell and another stem cell.
- They have mechanisms that protect the cell : they have high protection against external agents and they have a detoxification system against agents that are toxic to the cell.
What are stem cells for?
Stem cells serve to form multicellular adults from the embryo so that it can develop all the types of cells it needs to form organs with tissues with specialized functions.
The other function of stem cells is of vital importance in already developed organisms, for tissue repair . If it weren’t for the stem cells, the injuries would be lethal, as would the internal deterioration of the organs. In the image we can see an example of tissue regeneration process.
There are two basic reasons that explain the importance of stem cells and their necessity. We met with:
- Their ability to form fully developed organisms from very few cells. Thanks to them, embryonic development can be completed.
- They allow the body to be in constant maintenance and repair .
In addition to the inherent activities carried out by these cells within organisms, there is a great application of stem cells.
Application of stem cells in biotechnology and medicine
Uses of stem cells in medicine: These cells have greatly helped biotechnological research and its application in the medical field. With their study, it has been better understood how cells work and how diseases develop . Its study is carried out in vitro through its differentiation to create more cells and study their behavior and structure from them.
Application of stem cells in cell therapy and tissue repair
Uses of stem cells in medicine: Its application has been taken to cell therapy and tissue repair in cases where there is very serious damage due to disease and external assistance is required, with the use of cell replacement . This is known as regenerative medicine , and stem cell banks are beginning to be built for use in clinical therapies.
The technology that has been developed around these cells has led to considering and prospecting the possibility of creating new organs to be used in transplants. There are ethical, political and religious limitations that are debated today about whether or not it is correct to be generating artificial organs.
Uses of stem cells in medicine: Some of the cases in which the use of stem cells is applied are Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer, bone problems, arthritis, heart disease, among others. For example, in cancer cases, stem cells are used for antitumor therapies .
They have also been used as an in vitro model for clinical tests and thus avoid the use of live models.