Stem Cells – What are Stem Cells, Types and Advantages of Stem Cell Treatment.

embryonic stem cells microscopic view

What are stem cells

Stem cells are the source of all types of blood cells in our immune system, and they are the cells that make up almost every organ and tissue in our body. At birth the blood in the umbilical cord contains large quantities of stem cells. More precisely, the blood in the umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, which will then transform into the blood cells and immune system cells.

Cord blood contains a so-called. pluripotent stem cells, which will create the cells of the numerous types of tissues in the human body (myocardium, liver, neuronal, pancreatic, etc.). In the adult organism these cells are found in the peripheral blood cells and bone marrow.

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The name “stem cell” comes from the English. “Stem” can be translated as “trunk”, meaning that these cells act similarly to the trunk in plants. It grows up, extends and makes multiple branches.

Stem cells have the following characteristics:

– they are not terminally differentiated

– they are able to divide indefinitely

– when there is a division process, each daughter cell stands the possibility and potential to remain a stem cell or to stay on the path of differentiation.

Types of Stem Cells

Depending on what stage of development are the individual isolated stem cells they are divided into embryonic and adult stem cells(i.e., somatic stem cells derived from different tissues and organs of the fetus and the adult organism).
There are also other types, such as the 
induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are are produced in a lab environment by
reprogramming adult cells to express embryonic stem cells characteristics.

Embryonic stem cells – isolated from the inner cell mass of the blastocysts (Inner Cell Mass – ICM).

The Blastocyst is formed in the stage of the embryonic development before implantation. It consists of approximately 150 cells, which are divided in the following manner – a layer of cells is arranged on the inside of the blastocyst’s cell sphere and is called trofektoderm. They enclose a  gap called Blastocoele. Inside the blastocyst  a pile of cells is formed – the inner cell mass. It develops the future organism and the cells of the trofektoderm are developing the placenta . ICM cells are pluripotent stem cells. All cell types of germ layers – ecto, meso and endoderm are developed out of them.

Fetal stem cells are primitive cell types that will develop different organs of the body. Studies indicate that the fetal tissues are limited to a small number of cell types: nerve stem cells, including. neural crest cells, hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and progenitor stem cells of the pancreas. Fetal liver and blood cells are rich in hematopoietic stem cells.

Somatic stem cells (stem cells from adult tissues organism) are undifferentiated and multipotent. They can be found in differentiated tissues. They are able to renew themselves and become the father source of all specialized cells of the any tissue of origin. These stem cells can self-renew in the life of an organism. Sources of stem cells in the adult organism are the bone marrow, the blood, cornea, and retina of the eye, the dental pulp of the tooth, liver, skin, gastrointestinal tract and pancreas.

An example of how the renovation can be done at the expense of somatic stem cells, which are found in differentiated tissues and are maintained as undifferentiated cells are stem cells that are placed in the crypts and villi of the small intestine.

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC)

Stem cells that form the blood and immune cells are called hematopoietic stem cells.

Main sources of hematopoietic stem cells are bone marrow and peripheral blood. Eastern alternative for obtaining them are fetal liver and umbilical blood.

HSC can be used for autologous or allogeneic transplantation for the treatment of many diseases. Their positive healing effect has been proven in more than 70 diseases.

For example, autologous transplants are used to treat various types of cancer (multiplenna myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, ovarian cancer, etc.), And in amyloidosis, autoimmune diseases and others.

Allogeneic transplantatation of  the HSC is applied again for various cancers such as acute and chronic myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, myeloproliferative diseases, etc., as well as in diseases such as Fanconi anemia, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia and others.

Advantages of HSC stem cells:

– They are “young” cells, that means they have a huge potential for division and differentiation;

– The probability of infection of umbilical cord blood during fetal development is minimal;

– Have very low immunogenicity. This behavior can also be used in unrelated transplants;

– The dose of stem cells derived from umbilical cord necessary for transplantation is about 10 times lower than those obtained from bone marrow

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have one indisputable advantage – the absolute genetic identity with the tissues of the child from whose umbilical cord were obtained. Furthermore, once prepared, they can be stored for decades; in cases of necessity they can be defrosted without wasting valuable time searching for a suitable donor; and price for storage of the stem cells derived from umbilical cord is ten times lower than that required to purchase such cells from a donor.

Obtaining umbilical cord blood cells

The procedure for obtaining blood from the umbilical cord does not affect the normal running of the birth process. This simple, noninvasive method only takes a few minutes and is absolutely safe for both the mother and the child. Blood is taken from the umbilical vein in the umbilical cord after delivery of a baby as well as in normal delivery and cesarean birth.

Storage of Stem Cells

The cells are stored in liquid nitrogen at -196оС. In this case, they retain their viability for practically unlimited period of time.

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