DMPQ- What are stem cells? What are the different types of stem cells and how they are utilised to treat cancer?

Stem cells are special human cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types, from muscle cells to brain cells. In some cases, they also have the ability to repair damaged tissues.

              Stem cells differ from other kinds of cells in the body.

  • Self-renewal: They can divide and renew themselves for long periods.


  • Stem Cells are Unspecialised: It does not have any tissue-specific structure that allows it to perform specialized functions.



  • Potency: Specialised cells can be derived from stem cells through a process called differentiation. While differentiating, the cell usually goes through several stages, gaining more specialization at each step.


Stem cells are divided into two main forms: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

o    The embryonic stem cells used in research today come from unused embryos resulting from an in vitro fertilization procedure and that are donated to science. These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can turn into more than one type of cell.

o    There are two types of adult stem cells.

✓ One type comes from fully developed tissues, like the brain, skin, and bone marrow. There  are only small numbers of stem cells in these tissues, and they are more likely to generate only certain types of cells. For example, a stem cell-derived from the liver will only generate liver cells.

✓ The second type is induced pluripotent stem cells. These are adult stem cells that have been manipulated in a laboratory to take on the pluripotent characteristics of embryonic stem cells.


How it treats cancer:

Stem cells are applied especially to treat cancers, which require high-dose chemotherapy within the scope of medical care. The patient’s own stem cells are extracted from bone marrow or peripheral blood prior to high-dose chemotherapy, stored temporarily and transplanted after the treatment in order to minimize the side effects of the aggressive chemotherapy and to support the regeneration of destroyed cells.


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