I thought I would first start with a little introduction about what stem cells are and their uses:
“A stem cell is essentially a blank cell capable of becoming another, more differentiated cell-type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell or a nerve cell. Also they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for a long period” The Unlike nerve cells for example which do not normally replicate themselves, stem cells may replicate many times.
The two unique characteristics that diferentiate Stem cells from other cell types are that they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Secondly, under certain conditions, they can become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues.
Until recently, embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic were the main types of stem cells scientists worked with. 4 years ago, researchers made another advance by identifying conditions that would allow some specialized adult cells to be "reprogrammed" genetically to assume a stem cell-like state. This new type of stem cell is called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Stem cells are important for living organisms for many reasons. In the blastocyst, the inner cells give rise to the entire body of the organism, including all of the many specialized cell types and organs such as the heart, lung, skin, sperm, eggs and other tissues. In some adult tissues, such as bone marrow, muscle, and brain, discrete populations of adult stem cells generate replacements for cells that are lost through injury or illness.
Given their unique regenerative properties, stem cells offer new possibilities for treating diseases such heart disease. However, there is still a long journey ahead until we understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease, which is also referred to as regenerative medicine.