Adult stem cells are present
in most organs and tissues such as brain, bone marrow, blood
vessels, skin, teeth, and heart.
These stem cells are in the
tissues that they are going to become, an area called the
“stem cell niche.” This niche provides an environment that
allows them to reside next to their tissue type.
Research has shown that adult
stem cells live in the small blood vessels, and they could
be taken from a patient to repair diseased or damaged
tissue. When tissues are damaged by injury or disease, they
are activated to become the cells that need to be replaced.
Adult stem cells may provide
more in terms of therapeutic treatments as compared to
embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent,
having the ability to become any type of cell in the body.
While adult stem cells are
undifferentiated, they are limited to becoming the
specialized cell types of the organ from which they are
One exciting area of adult
stem cell research is the regeneration and transplantation
of tissues. A patient’s stem cells could be obtained, grown
in culture with growth factors that turn on genes that tell
them to become a certain cell type.
They would then be put back
into the patient to replace the damaged or diseased tissue.
Because the cells came from the patient, there is a
significantly decreased risk of rejection. This could
decrease or eliminate the use of powerful immunosuppressant
drugs that have serious side effects.
Some treatments currently
being pursued using adult stem cells are trying to create
osteocytes to regenerate bone, cells that produce insulin
for people with type 1 diabetes, and cardiomyocytes to
replace heart muscles that have been damaged from a heart