Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They serve as a repair system for the body. There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
Stem cells are different from other cells in the body in three ways:
- They can divide and renew themselves over a long time
- They are unspecialized, so they cannot do specific functions in the body
- They have the potential to become specialized cells, such as muscle cells, blood cells, and brain cells
Doctors and scientists are excited about stem cells because they could help in many different areas of health and medical research. Studying stem cells may help explain how serious conditions such as birth defects and cancer come about. Stem cells may one day be used to make cells and tissues for therapy of many diseases. Examples include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
NIH: National Institutes of Health