Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources:
- Umbilical cord lining from donor (Mesenchymal stem cells)
- Adult tissue (adult stem cells) primarily adipose (fat) or bone
Both types are generally characterized by their potency, or potential to differentiate into different cell types (such as skin, muscle, bone, immune, etc.).
What Is a Stem Cell Therapy?
A stem cell therapy is a treatment that uses stem cells, or cells that come from stem cells, to replace or to repair a patient’s cells or tissues that are damaged. The stem cells might be put into the blood, or transplanted into the damaged tissue directly, or even recruited from the patient’s own tissues for self-repair.
The range of diseases for which there are proven treatments based on stem cells is still growing. Doctors have been transferring blood stem cells by bone marrow transplant for more than 50 years, and advanced techniques for collecting blood stem cells are now used clinically. Umbilical cord blood, like bone marrow, is often collected as a source of blood stem cells and is being used experimentally as an alternative to bone marrow in transplantation.
Other tissue-specific stem cells may also play a role in tissue transplants that have been performed for several years. For tissues and organs such as skin and cornea, stem cells contained in these tissues contribute to long-term regeneration.