Stem cells are cells with the unique potential to become multiple different types of cell within the body. Most of your cells are equipped to accomplish a specific job, whether carrying oxygen in your blood or transmitting messages to and from your brain. These specialists are known as differentiated cells.
Stem cells

Coloured SEM of a human embryo at the 16-cell stage on the tip of a pin. Embryonic stem cells are the most flexible, able to form into all three primary germ layers: ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm

Stem cells, on the other hand, have the flexibility to specialise into a variety of cell types. And unlike most differentiated cells, they can replicate many times, giving rise to both more stem cells and to specialized cells.

The most versatile stern cells are found in embryos just a week old. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) transform the embryo from a tiny ball of unspecialized cells into a baby, generating all of the 250-odd cell types in the human body. A biological blank slate, their vast — and highly coveted — potential is known as pluripotency.

After birth, stem cells continue to play a vital role as your body's maintenance and repair kit,
taking up residence in tissues such as the brain, bone marrow, liver, heart muscles, skin and gut. Adult stem cells are less flexible than their embryonic counterparts, generating a more limited range of cell types. The haematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow, for example, are dedicated solely to producing blood cells.

When it comes to researching stern cells and the therapies that rely on them, getting hold of these cells is a major obstacle. ESCs are taken from donated embryos from IVF procedures,but this stirs up thorny ethical issues. Although challenging to work with, adult stem cells dodge some of these ethical quandaries, leading many to store their 0ffspring's stem cell-rich umbilical cord blood. Furthermore, tissues that have been generated from a patient's own stem cells don't risk rejection by their immune System

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