The Different Types of Stem Cells- A Primer
They are quite popular. They are being used widely in research and in the medical field. What are they? They are stem cells, of course!
Stem cells have become a hotly debated topic, but no one can really undermine their prowess. There are many different types of stem cells out there, so if you’re a bit curious as to what they are, I will go over and talk about each and every one of them in this article. Let’s start with the most commonly used, albeit quite a controversial stem cell.
1. Embryonic Stem Cells
Whenever a man’s sperm cell enters the ovary of a woman, it has a chance of coming into contact with the female’s egg cell. Whenever it does come into contact, it starts to fertilize and form an embryo. Stem cells can actually be acquired from 3-5 days’ old embryo and it is what is called as the Blastocyst. It is very tiny, about the size of the dot of the small letter “i”.
The stem cells can be harvested by sucking it out from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. The reason why this is controversial is due to the fact that it came from an embryo. And, elementary biology tells us that an embryo, when given enough time, turns into an actual human after nine months.
Since the blastocyst will no longer be fit for use, it is technically considered dead. That is really a bummer considering that, as it stands today, embryonic stem cells are the only ones that are pluripotent which means that they have the ability to turn into any cell in the body.
Because of their unique characteristics, they are mainly used in the research and creation of various medical treatments.
2. Adult Stem Cells
This type of cell actually has a lot of names such as Somatic or Tissue-Specific and the reason is due to its ability to generate only the cells from which they live in.
For instance, bone marrow stem cells generate the red and white blood cells because it typically is produced in that region.
There is also a class of somatic stem cells known as Mesenchymal Stem Cells or MSC. They are derived from the connective tissue that usually links other organs and tissues. Actually, the more appropriate name for it would be Stromal Cells, but its use is actually interchangeable with the former.
3. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
These stem cells are also known as the iPS and they are essentially stem cells that imitate what an embryonic stem cell can do.
What usually happens is that a stem cell taken from the body (skin cells are usually used for the conversion) is given some genes to turn into pluripotent stem cells that have similar characteristics to that of the embryonic ones such as the ability to cell divide and the ability to differentiate into specific cells.
However, although it’s purported to have similar traits, it is not actually the same. It still requires further research and testing, though, since the medium used in transporting the genes are harmless viruses that can bring some side effects or has the potential to dilute the effects of the iPS.
If we can finally create pluripotent cells from somatic stem cells, we now have the means to use it for research sans the use of days’ old embryos.