Stem cells are one of the most interesting cells in the human body. Many people are unaware of the benefits of using stem cells in treatments for different diseases. Recent research has found that these cells are able to help with more illnesses and injuries than ever before. Knee pain, spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s, and many other conditions all can benefit from stem cell treatments. But just what kind of stem cells are we discussing? Broadly speaking, there are two main kinds of stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells. While all of these cells are able to help fight diseases there are differences in each of them, both in their makeup, their origin, and their uses.
Embryonic Stem Cells
As you may guess, embryonic stem cells originate from embryos. Many of these stem cells develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro. They are then donated for research to scientists and doctors. However, it is important to note that embryonic stem cells are not derived from eggs fertilized in a female’s body. These cells are created in a laboratory known as cell culture, where they are generated by transferring cells from a preimplantation stage into a culture dish containing nutrient broth called culture medium. Recently researchers have discovered ways in which they are able to grow human embryonic stem cells without mouse cells called feeder cells. Throughout the experiment, cells that survive will divide and multiply crowding the dish. They are then removed and moved to another culture dish, or several. This is referred to as passage, which yields millions of embryonic stem cells. Throughout the process, these cells can be frozen and sent to other laboratories for more experimentation.
There are different ways in which these cells become specialized, whether they are nerve cells, muscle cells, tissue cells, or other cells. If the embryonic stem cells are kept in appropriate conditions, they remain unspecialized — or undifferentiated. However, if they do clump together forming embryoid bodies they are able to differentiate. In order to create specific cells such as nerve cells or muscle cells, scientists control the differentiation of the cells. They do this by changing the chemicals within the dish, altering the surface of the dish, or even embedding specific genes into the dish. That said, Seattle Stem Cell Center does not use embryonic stem cells in any of our treatments. There are ethical considerations and restrictions on their use.
Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells
The kind of stem cells we do use at Seattle Stem Cell Center are adult mesenchymal stem cells.
Similar to embryonic stem cells, they are able to help with the treatment of many different diseases. Adult stem cells mostly play the role of maintaining and repairing tissue, nerve or muscles in a living organism. Scientists refer to these cells as somatic stem cells referring to where their cells grow and come from. Research on these cells has excited many scientists and doctors as they discover adult stem cells in more parts of the body than ever expected.
The history of adult stem cells and the science of them begins more than 60 years ago. Scientists discovered bone marrow containing two types of cells hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. The difference in these is that hematopoietic stem cells form all types of blood cells and mesenchymal stem cells generate cartilage, and bone cells (putting the ‘somatic’ in somatic stem cells). In the past 40 years, researchers have been finding more uses for these cells, using adult stem cells for bone marrow transplants and more. Only recently did scientists and doctors discover that stem cells are able to generate in the brain into three cell types. These include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and neurons. Discovering these cells in the heart and brain also leads scientists to find ways in which they can be used in transplants.
While these stem cells have many similarities in helping the human body, they have their differences in origin and uses. At Seattle Stem Cell Center we find that adult mesenchymal stem cells do the work we need, helping patients heal from a number of injuries and recover from diseases after treatment. Interested in what treatments can do for you? Contact us or fill out our Health Intake Form