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Stem cell

Stem cells are first primordial cells that make up the organism. They distinguish themselves from other body cells in particular by two characteristics: 1. They possess the ability to self renew, 2. They can differentiate into various body cells depending on specific conditions. 

“Omnis cellula e cellulis” – each cell stems from another cell

Robert Hooke, a British genius in the Renaissance, described biological cells for the first time in 1665 and thus laid the foundation for modern biology. In the nineteenth century German physician Rudolf Virchow found out, that all degenerative changes of the human body happen in the cellular layer and, in this context, formed his famous phrase “omnis cellula e cellulis” – each cell stems from another cell. According to the predominant definition stem cells have the capacity to proliferate extensively and undifferentiated, to renew themselves, produce daughter cells and regenerate tissue. Stem cells are cells that other cells originate from.

Scientific or therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells are subject to rigorous statutory and ethical regulations. Besides of that, the employment of embryonic stem cells is contended due to transplant rejection (foreign cells), the disposition to generate terato-carcinoma and other unspecified tissue.

The use of adult, autologous stem cells, however, is unobjectionable according to ethical principles. Transplant rejections are avoided as only the patients´ own cells are transplanted. Adult stem cells, extracted from the bone marrow or umbilical cord, have been applied for many decades for patients with leukemia or other type of cancers. Today adult stem cells are deployed in heart surgery, reconstructive surgery, orthopedics and neurosurgery.

Tasks of adult stem cells

In our body adult, autologous (the bodies own) stem cells assume the task of tissue-regeneration and -repair. Their daughter cells have the capacity to transform into differentiated cells that can replace damaged or necrotic cells of organs or tissue. Consequently they maintain the daily functionality of our body. Regenerative medicine deploys these functional characteristics by isolating the stem cells from the patients’ own bone marrow and applying them directly, in a high concentration, up to the degenerated tissue. 

Differentiation capacity of adult stem cells

The term differentiation capacity of adult stem cells describes the capacity of an undifferentiated cell to transform into a differentiated, specific cell such as bone-, cartilage-, nerve-, skin-, pancreas-, liver- or heart-muscle cell. According to today’s state of knowledge stem cells have the capacity to build more than 20 different cellular tissues.