Stem Cells 101


What are Pluripotent Stem Cells?

  • They are early stage cells that can become any type of cell in the body.

What are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

cord blood
Cord blood stem cells
  • Cord blood stem cells are recovered at birth from the umbilical cord.
  • Even though they come from a newborn infant, they are still limited like adult stem cells.
  • Unlike adult stem cells, they can grow indefinitely in culture, giving researchers a limitless supply, enough to create tissue or disease models.

Where do Pluripotent Stem Cells Come From?

with flourescence
  • They come from blastocysts leftover from infertility treatments that would otherwise be destroyed.
  • Smaller than the point of a needle, these blastocysts are grown in a Petri dish.
  • They are small clumps of cells, 5 to 7 days old — long before a fetus would be formed.

What are Adult Stem Cells?

  • Adult stem cells are found in some, but NOT all of the body's mature tissues.
  • Unlike pluripotent stem cells, they can only make the limited types of cells found in the tissue in which they reside.
  • For example, adult stem cells from the liver can only make more liver cells.
  • They can ONLY give rise to blood cells and a few other cell types.

What are iPS Cells?

  • Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are produced by artificially "turning back the clock" of adult cells to a more embryonic-like state.
  • iPS cells have many characteristics of embryonic stem cells, but they are not identical.
  • This breakthrough technology is very useful for research, such as creating disease models in a dish, but does NOT reduce the need for embryonic stem cells.

What is SCNT?

  • Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a method for generating embryonic stem cells.
  • Stem cells generated by SCNT are the gold standard for stem cell research
  • In this technique, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed and replaced with the nucleus of an adult cell, like a skin or blood cell.



A process that occurs during development by which cells take on their specialized functions, such as the ability of a red blood cell to carry oxygen or a nerve cell to send an electrical signal.


An early stage embryo, about 5 days old. A blastocyst is a microscopic clump of about 150 cells. It is produced from an egg that has been fertilized in vitro but has not yet been implanted in the uterus. The blastocyst is about the same size as the cross section of a human hair.


The ability of a stem cell to produce more stem cells with identical characteristics as the "parent" cell.


The activation of an unfertilized egg by chemical means. These chemical signals cause the egg to begin to divide much as it would after normal fertilization. Scientists believe that these dividing cells could also be used to derive embryonic stem cells. However, these embryonic stem cells would carry the genes from only the woman from whom the unfertilized eggs were retrieved.

Pluripotent stem cells


Can make all 210 cell types in the body

Cord blood stem cells


Can make about 15 cell types in the body

Adult stem cells


Can make only the same type of cells


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