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Stem cell research

Related Terms

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Background

  • Differentiated cells are specialized for a particular function and do not have the ability to generate other kinds of cells or to go back to being undifferentiated, or unspecialized. Some examples of differentiated cells are heart muscle cells, nerve cells, and blood cells. Differentiated cells can grow for only so long before they die off to make room for newly differentiated cells that will replace them and perform the same function.
  • Stem cells, on the other hand, are undifferentiated cells and do not perform a certain function within the body. Stem cells have the ability to self-renew while maintaining an unspecialized state. In other words, stem cells can remain as stem cells and do not need to differentiate into another type of cell in order to grow and survive. However, they also have the ability to develop into differentiated cells such as nerve cells, muscle cells, or blood cells.
  • They can proliferate, or self-renew, indefinitely. Adult stem cells are able to develop only into the tissue or organ from which they originally developed. These stem cells can act as a repair system for the body, replenishing specialized cells, but can also maintain the normal cellular turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues.
  • By studying stem cells scientists may better understand the process of embryonic development. Furthermore, stem cell research may reveal how healthy cells replace damaged cells in adult organisms.
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Types of Stem Cells

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Methods

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Research

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Implications

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Limitations

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Safety

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Future Research

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.