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What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the "building blocks" of our biocellular system. They are undifferentiated cells with the unique ability to change into other types of somatic cells, and so to regenerate tissues damaged by any pathological events.

Stem cells can be found in the early embryo (during the first few days of existence), cord blood, umbilical cord tissue (Wharton's jelly), the amniotic fluid, and the fetal portion of the placenta; also in adult bone marrow, dental pulp, and fat tissue.

The most noteworthy characteristic of stem cells is called "self-renewal", that is, the ability to reproduce cells identical to the parent cell with each cell division. Stem cells also have high differential plasticity, which means they can generate many other types of cells.

During embryonic development, stem cells give rise to all the cell lines of which the human body and its organs ultimately are made (muscle, heart, nerve, blood, cornea, and skin cells). In adults, stem cells make physiological tissue renewal and regeneration of damaged tissues possible.

Transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow has become an established clinical practice. Transplantation of stem cells from cord blood was also added a few years ago.
Page created on: 03/09/2012
Last modified on: 03/09/2012
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