What are stem cells?
Stem cells are recognized for being the raw materials of the body. These cells are the primary cells, through it various other cells with specialized functions are produced.
These cells then divide and grow into more forms of cells which are known as daughter cells. This formation of new cells can be done only in the right condition state of a body or in a laboratory.
These daughter cells are then categorized into 2 categories. They either exist and evolve as new stem cells also known as self-renewal cells. Or they become specialized cells. These specialized cells have a more specific function for example brain cells, blood cells, bone cells, or heart muscle cells. The stem cell is the only cell that has the ability to generate and develop new cell types naturally.
What are the different types of stem cells?
There are various stem cell types but they can mainly be categorized into two types-
1) Embryonic stem cells
These embryonic stem cells which are used for the purpose of researching and examining are obtained from unused embryos. This type of stem cell is contributed to science for the process of analyzing. The results and outcomes are known to form an in vitro fertilization procedure. This type of cell can be turned into more than one type of cell and hence these embryonic stem cells are pluripotent.
2) Adult stem cells
Adult stem cell further subcategorized into two types.
- One type of adult stem cell is obtained from fully developed tissues of the skin, brain, and bone marrow. In these tissues, the number of stem cells is most likely to be less in number. This type of stem cell is likely to generate only a few certain types of cells. For instance, liver cells can only be generated when it emerges from a stem cell that comes from the liver.
- The second type of adult stem cell is induced pluripotent stem cells. This type of stem cell is transformed and processed in a lab to become more like embryonic stem cells. In 2006, it was the first time when scientists reported that human cells can be processed and changed through this particular method. Induced pluripotent stem cells don’t have much difference when compared to embryonic stem cells but scientists till today haven’t come across and found one that generates and develops every kind of tissue and cell.
Why are these cells important and what are their primary functions?
1) They help in understanding how diseases occur in the body.
These specialized cells which evolve as different types of cells when in bones, nerves, heart muscles, and other organs or tissues assist health care professionals and researchers to analyze the diseases and under what conditions they develop.
2) They act as regenerative treatment
Stem cells when conducted under the right conditions can transform themselves into specific cells that are used to either repair damaged tissues or diseases by the process of regenerating within individuals.
How do they help in healing?
Individuals who are having difficulties dealing and surviving with type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, stroke, burns, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease might gain the benefits of these stem cell treatments and therapies.
Researchers are analyzing and studying the possibilities of these stem cells which might contain the potential to grow and develop into new tissues that can be used for transplants as regenerative medicine.
According to recent studies, it has been observed that animal models that have the ability to regenerate are more suitable for regenerative treatment and medicine. Zebrafish and Greco models have been introduced as the models that have the capability to regenerate different types of organs and tissues.
3) Used for testing new drugs for safety purposes and to judge the effectiveness
New drugs are tested and examined before entering the healthcare industry. It has been observed that researchers use stem cells to test drugs to ensure their quality and safety measures.
While this type of testing procedures are conducted, there are high chances that they will impact directly on drug development firstly for testing cardiac toxicity.
According to the recent examination, the effectiveness of using human stem cells to test new drugs is conducted by using several techniques. While testing new drugs, conditions are taken care of to ensure that these new cells acquire the properties of the type of cells that are being targeted by the drug.
To understand and gain clarity on this concept, let’s consider the example of nerve cells. These nerve cells can be generated in order to test a new drug which can then be used for nerve-related diseases. The tests which are conducted will help the researchers obtain the results which can determine whether the cells were harmed or had any effects.
Stem cell functions are regularly researched and studied. In the medicine field, examining and researching is a continuation process considering how rapidly new drugs and theories are found and evolved.
While we discussed stem cell types and stem cell functions in detail, it is also important to be aware of the success rate of stem cell treatment. According to the research conducted in 2008, the success rate on a global level is 80 percent. In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research has issued guidelines that suggest that stem cell therapies should only be used for certain treatments.