Stem cells are characterized based on two basic characteristics-a capability for self-renewal and a capability to develop into specialized cells. The type of specialization often depends on the cell's function and location, such as those of acid and protein secreting cells in the stomach or insulin secreting cells in the pancreas. On the other hand, the capability for self-renewal and specialization enables a nerve stem cell, for example, to grow into a mature nerve cell and another self-renewing cell that perpetuates the next cycle of self replication and specialization. Stem cells can also be categorized into embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Pluripotent embryonic stem cells are derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst and adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in post-embryonic tissues or organs. The primary roles of adult stem cells are to maintain and repair the tissues or organs in which they reside. The pluripotency of embryonic stem cells, which give rise to various cell types, and the ability of adult stem cells to repair tissue damage are the "magic fix" that regeneration medicine is suggesting. Whether the function of stem cells is hematopoietic or non-hematopoietic, researchers all over the world are striving hard to harness the use of stem cells for medicine. As the progress of stem cell research moves steadily forward, let us pause for a minute and pose a question. Are stem cells really going to be the magical medical therapeutic component of the future? © 2009 Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.
Yang, K. L., & Shyr, M. H. (2009, March). Are Stem Cells the Magical Medical Therapy of the Future? Tzu Chi Medical Journal. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1016-3190(09)60003-3