What are stem cells?
Mahendra Kavdia, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering in the College of Engineering, the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and the University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture, replies:
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can renew themselves after long periods of time and can be differentiated into a diverse range of tissue or organ specific cells to perform specific functions. Stems cells can be embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are derived from inner cell mass of blastocyst, generally grown in culture over six months without differentiation – or without converting into specialized tissue or organ-specific cells. Adult stem cells are resident in specific tissues and organs but remain undifferentiated. In general, adult stem cells are referred to their origin of tissue. Adult stem cells are known to maintain and repair tissues. However, the origin of adult stem cells, including endothelial progenitor cells, is still under investigation.
Because stem cells can be induced into differentiating into specific tissue, stem cells hold promise in treating many diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.