What are stem cells?
Stem cells are cells that can differentiate, that is, they can transform into other tissues and organs cells. Stem cells can be found in any grown human body. Stem cells can divide into:
- Totipotent stem cells , which can become any kind of organic tissue;
- Pluripotent stem cells , a cell type that can transform into nearly all types of cells for tissues and organs;
- Unipotent stem cells , which can only produce one cell type;
- Multipotent stem cells , that is, cells which can only differentiate into a limited number of cells;
- Oligopotent stem cells , which can differentiate into only a few cell types.
Stem cells can be found in the bone marrow, in the brain, in the dermis (skin) and in the dental pulp. In newborns, the umbilical cord and amniotic fluid are also rich in stem cells.
What are stem cells for?
Stem cell therapy is currently used in the UK as part of treatment for certain types of blood cancer. Stem cells enable significant blood transfusions after aggressive cancer treatment for conditions such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma .
Because stem cells can regenerate old or damaged cells, there is significant interest in its use for a much wider range of conditions. Stem cell therapy is currently being researched for the treatment of conditions as varied as muscular dystrophy, jaw pain, Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment would consist of a procedure by which the damaged tissues or organs are healed by using stem cells.
Within ophthalmology, there is a lot of ongoing research looking into the potential uses of using stem cells to treat ocular conditions.