As you probably remember from biology class every living thing is composed of cells. There are over 200 different types of cells in the human body. Each type of cell has a specific form and function and is specialized to perform specific tasks.
Cells that make up the heart are different than cells that compose the skin.
Cells lacking a specific function but have the capacity to become specialized and are able to self-renew (make more cells with the ability to become specialized) are stem cells. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types. Stem cells can be separated into two categories: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
To keep our bodies functioning, we need to make new cells all the time. Adult stem cells play a vital role in the body’s repair system. For example, when the body is injured, signals are sent inducing stem cells to become specialized and take the place of the damaged cells.
Stem cells are essential to the maintenance of body tissues that undergo continuous cell replacement, such as skin, blood, gut. Muscle tissue is often damaged through physical exertion. Additionally cells composing heart and muscle tissue do not undergo cell division, instead they are replenished by populations of stem cells.
The unique regenerative abilities of stem cells are the reasons scientists and doctors are so enthusiastic about the use of cellular therapy for the treatment of injury, and the deterioration of tissue due to aging. Additionally, the advancement of stem cell research offers new potentials in the treatment of diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, retinol disease, stroke, and heart disease.