Stem Cells are extraordinary. They can differentiate into any cell in the organism and are capable of self-renewal which is why stem cell therapy holds such high expectations for treating numerous diseases. But…working with stem cells in research and development laboratories is not easy, the cells are fragile and prone to decreased viability after each experimental step.
This article introduces the basic types of stem cells, how they can be used to treat diseases and how Cellix’s Inish Analyser is used as a quality check for cell counting and viability assays – key metrics when working with stem cells.
Stem Cell Basics
There are different types of stem cells, as follows:
Totipotent stem cells - they can divide and differentiate into cells of the whole organism.
Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) - they form cells of all germ layers except extraembryonic structures.
Multipotent stem cells - they can differentiate into cells of specific cell lineages, such as hematopoietic stem cells, found in the peripheral blood and the bone marrow.
Oligopotent stem cells – they can differentiate into several cell types.
Unipotent stem cells – they are only able to form one cell type.
After fertilization, a blastocyst is formed. Its inner wall contains short-lived embryonic stem cells. The blastocyst contains two cell types, the inner cell mass (ICM) and the trophectoderm (TE), . The TE forms a specialized support structure while the ICM remains undifferentiated, fully pluripotent, and proliferative. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) derive from the ICM. After hESCs differentiate into one of the germ layers, they become multipotent cells.
Pluripotent cells occur all over the organism, and they can proliferate and differentiate into specialized cells under the right conditions. In the body, adult stem cells enable the healing, growth, and replacement of lost cells. It is also possible to reprogram adult stem cells back to their pluripotent state, resulting in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Stem Cells Applications
Stem cell-based therapy can improve the health and quality of life of people with genetic disorders, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. The applications in medicine are vast and some examples include:
Hematopoietic Stem Cells Transplantation