The Story of Stem Cells

People often say that "being healthy is the best gift ever", but the question is how many people on earth can continue to have such good fortune. Nobody can avoid aging; time passes and we grow older each day, and consequently, our body functions and features are changed.

For example:

  • Memory becomes poor
  • Wrinkles appear since our skin produces less sweat and oil, and it consequently becomes thinner and less elastic
  • Muscles and bones become weaker
  • Cells get damaged easily
  • Our immune system is not as strong as before; the body has difficulty fighting diseases

The advantage of being human is that we will never give up life easily. We always have hope for a solution to our problems through better scientific research. That is the reason why groups of biologists and medical scientists all over the world have recently been working very hard to find cures and therapies for currently untreatable human sicknesses such as cancer, leukemia, diabetes, and blindness. Stem cell therapy is one of the hopes of the human race. Some people even hope and wish that stem cells may possibly cure all disease. The main purpose of writing this article is to provide an overview of stem cells to achieve a better understanding and to present an update about relevant medical research and biotechnologies.

 

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Chapter 1: Introduction of Stem Cells

Cells are the functional unit of an organism; every organ and every tissue consists of cells. The human body is comprised of specialized cells, also known as differentiated cells, like those in the skin, muscle, blood, bones, heart, and brain, all of which function synergistically to perform their designated functions. These specialized cell types, however, are derived from a single type of cells known for their remarkable property of self-renewal and the ability to become any cell type in the human body; these are called stem cells.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells, meaning that their role in the body is yet to be determined. When a single stem cell divides and forms two cells, these cells can either retain their undifferentiated state and choose to remain a stem cell, or differentiate into any specific cell type as illustrated in Fig. 1.

TICEBA - The Story of Stem Cells - Chapter 1 - Fig1 - Differentiation of Stem Cells

Fig. 1: Differentiation of Stem Cells

 

Stem cells can be of two types: (a) embryonic and (b) non-embryonic (i.e. adult stem cells). Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that are formed during the normal fertilization process when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The embryo that originates from a single egg undergoes consequent divisions several times to form a blastocyst in approximately five days. This blastocyst is made up of two main cell types called trophectoderm and inner mass cells, as illustrated in Fig. 2. The trophectoderm cells give rise to supporting embryonic tissues like the placenta, and the inner cell mass gives rise to approximately 250 different cell types of the body, a property known as pluripotency, thus forming a new human being. It is this inner cell mass that is the primary source of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are also found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood. By culturing these cells in the lab under controlled conditions, it is possible to stimulate such cells to become particular cell types of interest. Earlier studies (since 1981) on embryonic stem cells were performed mainly in mouse embryos. Several years later, scientists were finally able to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow them in a lab in 1998, amidst many controversies. These embryos were created during in vitro fertilization procedures as part of infertility treatment and donated for research when they were in excess or no longer needed.

TICEBA - The Story of Stem Cells - Chapter 1 - Fig2 - Formation of Embryonic Stem Cells

Fig. 2: Formation of Embryonic Stem Cells

 

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Adult or Somatic Stem Cells

Even after birth, stem cells are found in specialized locations of the body like the brain, spinal cord blood, blood vessels, skin, bone marrow, hair follicles, the lining of the nose, gut, lungs, and joint fluids. These are the non-embryonic stem cells known as adult stem cells or tissue-specific stem cells.

As we grow from embryos to fully developed human beings, these stem cells play an important role throughout life. They give rise to all of our differentiated tissues during growth and subsequently also help in natural tissue regeneration and repair to combat regular wear and tear in addition to disease. Somatic stem cells are usually dormant, but when needed, these cells upon receipt of appropriate signals begin to actively divide, thus assisting in the regular maintenance of the body. These adult stem cells can only give rise to the type of cells present in that particular tissue.

For example, millions of red blood cells die each day and need to be replaced. This job is accomplished by stem cells located in the bone marrow (known as hematopoietic stem cells), the site of synthesis for blood cells. These cells can give rise to any type of blood cells. Transplantation of these hematopoietic stem cells has been in use to replenish blood cells in cancer patients for decades. This constant self-renewal by stem cells is a feature of many of the body's organs and tissues like skin, hair, and bone. For the organs that lack normal function, stem cell therapy promises boundless treatment options that plague the human race.

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Besides the authorization to manufacture a human medicinal product in accordance with § 13 (1) of the German Medicinal Products Act (AMG) for autologous mesenchymal stem cells, TICEBA is also authorized to manufacture a medicinal product for allogeneic mesenchymal as well as allogeneic limbal ABCB5 + stem cells following a recent extension. For more information click HERE.

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Together with our subsidiary RHEACELL we are recruiting patients with the indication chronic venous ulcer (CVU) for the clinical trial in phase 1/2a. For more information click HERE.

The Story of Stem Cells

Review our category "The Story of Stem Cells" with the newest topic "Stem cells in wound healing" HERE.

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