When it comes to stem cells, one common misconception is that adult stem cells come only from adult subjects. While adult stem cells can be harvested from adults, the age of the person is not the defining factor. It is the development of the stem cell that determines whether it is embryonic or “adult.”
An adult stem cell is one that has developed enough to differentiate what type of specialized cell it is. Scientists have discovered many ways to isolate these cells. Research has discovered that adult stem cells are found not only in the skin, bone marrow, and blood vessels but also in many other tissues and organs. Stem cells are thought to reside in a specific area of each tissue where they may remain dormant for many years until they are activated by a normal need for more cells, or from tissue injury or disease.
Stem cells are used as a form of repair or regeneration therapy. The method of isolation or extraction of the adult stem cells depends on the tissue the stem cells are being taken from. Researchers then grow the different stem cells in a lab. When a stem cell divides, each new cell that is produced has the potential to remain a stem cell or become a cell with a more specialized function. The adult stem cells that are grown to specialized types are to be used for specific purposes such as research or stem cell therapy. F
or example, blood stem cells can be taken from bone marrow, from the blood in an umbilical cord, or from a person’s own blood supply. The bone marrow transplant, or stem cell transplant, is then used to help boost a person’s immune system to fight some types of blood-related diseases. They can also be used to help replace cells damaged by disease or treatments for cancer. Mesenchymal stem cells, which can make fat, cartilage, bone and more, can also be isolated from bone marrow. Neural stem cells are isolated from the brain and spinal cord, and so on.
With so many advances happening in stem cell therapies, researchers hope stem cells will soon be effective in the treatment of many diseases and medical conditions. Scientists are developing new ways of isolating and manipulating cells to increase their abilities.
To recap, adult stem cells are often retrieved from the
individual in need of treatment. However, adult stem cells are commonly enhanced in a lab before being used for any treatments. There are many areas of the body where adult stem cells can be retrieved, and someone doesn’t have to be an official “adult” for adult stem cells to exist within them.