What are stem cells and why are they needed?


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On the pages of our portal, we often write about achievements in the field of stem cell use. In order not to miss such materials, we recommend that you subscribe to our news channel in Telegram. But today we decided to tell you not just about the next discovery, but about what exactly the same stem cells are. Is their use really a promising area and how can stem cells help humanity in general?

The use of stem cells can open up new horizons for regenerative medicine

What are stem cells?

Stem cells (or progenitor cells) are the cells from which all organs and tissues of our body are formed. The cells themselves are formed at the stage of embryonic development and can retain their numbers for some time. With increasing age, the supply of stem cells decreases as all necessary organs are formed. However, this leads to a deterioration in the ability to regenerate and thus to an aging of the body. Where do stem cells come from? There are several sources of stem cells in the human body, namely bone marrow, adipose tissue, peripheral blood (the so-called hematopoietic stem cells, but they are also present in the bone marrow) as well as the blood of the baby umbilical cord and the umbilical cord itself.

See also: Found structures with greater regeneration potential than stem cells

I would like to talk about the last two points. Because the removal of umbilical cord blood for preservation is very popular nowadays, these stem cells can be used in the future for the treatment of a specific person. That is, they do not have to be artificially generated (which we will talk about today), but it will be possible to use "your own" genetic material. However, there is very little data to successfully apply this approach, and this industry is "young enough" to draw conclusions about the effectiveness or inefficiency of this approach. It is also worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, placental tissue does not belong to stem cell sources because it is made up of the mother's body and contains adult maternal cells.

Why do we need stem cells?

The question may arise: what to do with people who "did not have time" to save their umbilical cord blood? In this case, the technology of cell reprogramming will remedy the situation. For them, cells of the deep skin layers are usually removed and reprogrammed in a special way. In addition, this process is very similar to normal programming. For working with cells, a special language called cello is developed. Only when normal programming languages ​​work with numerical data does cello work with the nucleic acids that make up the cellular DNA. Thus, any parameters can be set for nucleic acids that alter the cell at the genetic level. Roughly speaking, skin cells therefore undergo a kind of "reverse development" without forming a new tissue, but "going to the roots" and becoming precursor cells.

Stem cells can develop into any tissue in our organisms.

Regarding the uses of stem cells, I would like to say that they are used today to treat a number of diseases of the blood and bone marrow. Especially in the treatment of leukemia (blood cancer). Based on the fact that stem cells can form any tissue, scientists have used it, for example, in the treatment of severe burns, to produce skin grafts, to restore nerve trunks after injury and to "build" new vessels.

But that's not all. There are currently active developments in the treatment of severe organic lesions of the nervous system. In particular for the creation of medicines for Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and so on. In addition, there are already indications that new organs can be bred with stem cells. For example, heart, liver, kidneys, parts of the lungs, bones, muscles and tendons.

However, you should not consider stem cells as a "cure for all diseases" because the technology of their use is still poorly understood. In particular, some data suggest that improper stem cell therapy may induce a "malfunction" in its development and cause the formation of tumors. It is also still not clear how well artificially grown organs take root and whether they are suitable for transplantation in general. This still has to be found out by the doctors.