Jump to navigation. For many years, researchers have been seeking to understand the body's ability to repair and replace the cells and tissues of some organs, but not others. After years of work pursuing the how and why of seemingly indiscriminant cell repair mechanisms, scientists have now focused their attention on adult stem cells. It has long been known that stem cells are capable of renewing themselves and that they can generate multiple cell types. Today, there is new evidence that stem cells are present in far more tissues and organs than once thought and that these cells are capable of developing into more kinds of cells than previously imagined. Efforts are now underway to harness stem cells and to take advantage of this new found capability, with the goal of devising new and more effective treatments for a host of diseases and disabilities. What lies ahead for the use of adult stem cells is unknown, but it is certain that there are many research questions to be answered and that these answers hold great promise for the future.
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The primary role of adult stem cells in humans is to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. Stem cells are very flexible cells, sometimes considered immature, that have not developed to a final specialized cell type like skin, liver, heart, etc. Since they have not yet specialized, stem cells can respond to different signals and needs in the body by becoming any of the various cell types needed, e. In that sense they are a bit like a maintenance crew that keeps repairing and replacing damaged or worn out cells in the body. Microscopic in size, stem cells are big news in medical and science circles because they can be used to replace or even heal damaged tissues and cells in the body. They can serve as a built-in repair system for the human body, replenishing other cells as long as a person is still alive. They naturally exist in our bodies, and they provide a natural repair mechanism for many tissues of our bodies. They belong in the microenvironment of an adult body, while embryonic stem cells belong in the microenvironment of the early embryo, not in an adult body, where they tend to cause tumors and immune system reactions. New therapies using adult type stem cells, on the other hand, are being developed all the time. Stem Cells are being used today to help people suffering from dozens of diseases and conditions.
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Stem cells and derived products offer great promise for new medical treatments. Learn about stem cell types, current and possible uses, ethical issues, and the state of research and practice. You've heard about stem cells in the news, and perhaps you've wondered if they might help you or a loved one with a serious disease.
Currently, blood stem cells are the only type of adult stem cell used regularly for treatment; they have been used since the late s in the procedure now commonly known as bone marrow transplant. Transplants of neural stem cells have been tried in small numbers of patients with brain disorders such as Parkinson disease, and the FDA recently approved a clinical trial of neural stem cells for spinal cord injury. Preliminary research in animals has found that bone marrow stromal cells, injected into a damaged heart, can have beneficial effects. In some cases, it may be possible to infuse the stem cells into the blood, as in a bone marrow transplant. The cells find their own way to the proper location and begin forming the cells and tissues needed.