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The ability of a stem cell from an adult tissue type to produce differentiated cells of another tissue type.

Adult (somatic) stem cells
Undifferentiated cells occurring in various tissue types. They can divide, differentiate, and give rise to all cell types found in the tissue where they are located.

Puncture of the abdominal wall to remove amniotic fluid from the uterus for diagnostic purposes.

Cleansing of the blood by removing one or several components, e.g., platelets, plasma, leukocytes, etc. The blood is then returned to the body.

Autologous transplant
Reintroduction of the patient's own stem cells (which can re-start hematopoiesis in the bone marrow) previously taken from the bone marrow or peripheral blood. Since the reintroduced cells originally come from the patient, no rejection or tissue damage due to immunological reaction occurs after the transplant.


Blastocele, blastoderm, and blastomer
The cavity in the embryo at the blastula stage. The blastocele is delimited by the blastoderm, consisting of blastomeres that secrete the liquid filling the blastocele.

An early stage of embryonic development in which cells begin to differentiate. The blastocyst is roughly spherical and consists of an outer layer (the trophectoderm), a liquid-filled cavity (the blastocele), and an accumulation of cells within the blastocyst (the inner cell mass).


Cell culture
In cell cultures, eukaryotic cells isolated from animal tissue are kept alive for very long periods of time under appropriate conditions (temperature, pH, humidity, CO2, nutrients).

Cell division
The process by which one cell divides to create two. There are two types: mitosis and meiosis.

Cell passage
Growth and proliferation stage of a cultured cell.

Cryogenic storage
Low-temperature (-196°C) freezing and storage using liquid nitrogen. Under these conditions, a cell's ability to survive and function remains unchanged for a long period of time.

Culture medium
A liquid medium that covers the cells while they are being cultured and provides them with the necessary nutrients. The culture medium can contain growth factors to promote the desired cellular changes.

Protein molecules produced by several types of cell and secreted into the cellular environment. They influence the behavior of other cells and trigger new activity such as cell growth, differentiation, and cell death.


The process by which a non-specialized cell is transformed into a specialized cell such as a heart, liver, or muscle cell.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a highly complex molecule in the cell nucleus. DNA carries a great deal of information used to ensure the proper functioning of the body's various structures and organs.


The embryo's outer layer. The nervous system, some sensory organs (eyes, ears), and the skin and its associated structures develop from the ectoderm.

An early phase of human development. An embryo the size of a small seed (less than 1 mm) grows during the period between conception and the end of the eighth week of pregnancy. Beginning with the ninth week of pregnancy, the future baby is called a fetus.

Embryonic layer
Fertilization of the egg stimulates cell division. The resulting cells differentiate into the three embryonic layers, also called germ layers: the endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm.

Embryonic stem cells
Primitive (undifferentiated) stem cells that make up the embryo in the early stages of mammalian development. These cells can produce all types of specialized cells.

The inner layer of an embryo. It gives rise to the cells of the digestive tract, liver, pancreas, most of the respiratory apparatus, part of the bladder and ureters, and other tissues.

Ex vivo
This Latin phrase means experiments with living cells that are done outside the body, with the cells then returned to the organism.


The union of a male gamete (spermatozoon) with a female gamete (egg cell, oocyte).

The phase of human development occurring between the ninth week after conception and birth.


A type of cell involved in sexual reproduction in many organisms, including mammals. Gametes contain a full complement of genetic material, but have only one copy of each gene (haploid set of chromosomes).

The process of the creation and spatial positioning of the germ layers to favor the subsequent neurulation phase.

The hereditary material's functional unit, made up of a segment of DNA. Genes are found on chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. They control many functions, including the synthesis of enzymes and other proteins.

Germ layers
Layers of cells that make up the embryo. All of the child's organs and parts arise from the three germ layers, the endoderm (inner layer), mesoderm (middle layer), and ectoderm (outer layer).

Growth factors
Proteins that stimulate cell proliferation and differentiation.

GvHD (Graft versus Host Disease)
An immunological reaction by an immunologically competent donor organ to the recipient's tissues.


Hematopoietic stem cells
The stem cells that give rise to blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets). They are found in adult bone marrow, the umbilical cord of newborns, and other organs such as the liver and spleen during fetal development.


Inner cell mass
A core of cells within the blastocyst. From it develops the embryo, which later becomes the fetus. It is these cells that give rise to embryonic stem cells.

In vitro (Latin)
An artificial environment for conducting experiments, e.g., Petri dishes or test tubes.

In vitro fertilization
An artificial method of combining egg cells and spermatozoa.


A process of cell division by which four daughter cells are produced, each with half of the genetic material: Only one copy of each gene is present, either a copy from the mother or a copy from the father. This type of cell division occurs only in cells that give rise to the gametes.

Mesenchymal stem cells
Cells with high differentiation capability that can give rise to various cell types: osteoblasts, chondrocytes, myocytes, adipocytes, and pancreatic beta cells.

The middle germ layer. The bones, muscles and connective tissue are formed from the mesoderm.

The molecules and compounds, e.g., growth and nutritive factors, present in the structures surrounding the cell, in an organism, or in the laboratory. The microenvironment plays an important role in determining cell characteristics.

A process of cell division that results in two genetically identical daughter cells. This type of cell division allows a cell population to either increase in number or remain the same; it occurs in all cell types except the gametes.

The morula is a collection of cells that forms during the first stage of embryonic development with cleavage of the zygote. In humans, the zygote divides about 24-30 hours after fertilization; subsequent mitoses follow more rapidly. Through cleavage, the morula (8- to 16-blastomere stage) is formed on the third day, then travels into the uterine cavity and implants.


Nutritive layer
Cells used in a culture to feed pluripotent stem cells and prevent differentiation.


A uterine tissue present in all female mammals (except marsupials); acts as the intermediary between the fetus and the mother, supplies nourishment to the fetus and allows it to respire.

Progenitor cell
A cell that produces other cells (daughter cells).

An increase in the number of cells due to continual division by the individual cells, giving rise to identical daughter cells.


Regenerative medicine
The field of regenerative medicine uses therapies in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell types needed to repair damaged tissues or organs.

Rejection is a defensive reaction by a transplant patient's immune system, which recognizes the new organ as a foreign body.


The ability of stem cells to reproduce an unlimited number of times without differentiating.

Somatic cells
All cells of the human body other than the gametes (egg or sperm cells).

Stem cell
An undifferentiated cell that gives rise to specialized cells and can divide an unlimited number of times in cultures.

Stroma of the bone marrow
A population of various cells within the bone marrow that provides the necessary microenvironment to allow the bone marrow stem cells to live and function.

The transfer of cultured cells from one culture container to another, with or without dilution.

Surface markers
Cell-specific proteins on the cell surface; can be made visible using antibodies or other visualization techniques.


The process by which stem cells from one type of tissue are differentiated into cells of another tissue type. Cf.Adaptability.

Also called trophectoderm. Cell tissue that nourishes the embryo. It forms the placenta and the other auxiliary embryonic organs, but does not help form the embryo proper.
This structure - the outer cells of the blastocyst - arises early in embryogenesis after formation of the blastocele, but before implantation.
The "syntrophoblast", or outer trophoblast, is responsible for the implantation of the embryo. It develops into the placenta and controls the exchange of nutrients and oxygen between the mother and the embryo.


Umbilical cord
The umbilical cord (funiculus umbilicalis, chorda umbilicalis) is the organ that connects the placenta to the fetus and supplies the fetus with the necessary nutrients and oxygen throughout the pregnancy, as well as carrying away wastes. It contains one vein and two arteries. The umbilical vein transports oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the baby, and the arteries carry away waste-laden blood.
The cord consists of Wharton's jelly and connective tissue. It has no nerves, so cutting it is painless. It is smooth, shiny, semi-rigid, flexible, and very strong (it can support up to 5 kg). By the end of the pregnancy it is about 55 cm long and 2 cm in diameter.

Umbilical cord stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells removed from the umbilical cord at birth.


The cell produced by fertilization, i.e., a combination of two specialized haploid cells (gametes)

Page created on: 03/09/2012
Last modified on: 03/09/2012
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