Stem cell differentiation

Stems cells are cells that have not yet become differentiated, so they do not have a specific structures or function in a particular tissue or organs. The fact that these cells do not in a sense have a fate means that they are able to be manipulated so that they become directed to a desired fate. This allows for the growth of human tissue within a laboratory setting for the use of treatments of various disorders. Depending on the origin of the stem cells puts limitations of their potency (the stem cell’s ability to differentiate into various cell types).

Types of stem cells

Totipotent stem cells

These stem cells can give rise to all cell types. These stem cells are derived from a fertilised egg and cells of an embryo containing 2-8 cells.

Pluripotent stem cells

These stem cells can give rise to most cell types and these cells are found in the inner cell mass of an early embryo.

Multipotent stem cells

These stem cells can give rise to limited cell types. These stem cells are found in adult and somatic cells such as found in the bone marrow or adipose tissue.

Use of stem cells

  • Replacement of neurons that produce dopamine as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
  • Replacement of the tissues of the joints for individuals with arthritis.
  • Replacement of the pancreatic tissue for individuals who have Type 1 diabetes to include insulin producing cells that are normally destroyed by the disease.
  • Replacement of the tissue that has been lost to injuries such as those that have resulted from spinal cord or burn injuries.

Ethical issues

Despite their potential to play a role in the treatment of many diseases and conditions, many ethical issues are raised form the use of embryonic stem cells. Many people have issues that in order to extract embryonic stem cells a whole line of embryos must be destroyed in the process, many people argue that this is murder. Furthermore, may people have issues that the fact that the procedure also involves the creation of an embryo in order to extract stem cells, that once what is needed is extracted the embryo gets destroyed.

See also