Making Heads or Tails of the Many Different Stem Cell Types

Spend a few hours reading news stories about stem cell therapy and you may find yourself getting lost in some pretty technical vocabulary. Just the phrase ‘stem cells’ alone carries a lot of different connotations. For example, what kinds of stem cells is a particular article talking about? There is more than just one kind.

You might read one article referencing embryonic stem cells, another talking about amniotic stem cells, and yet another article referencing both mesenchymal and induced pluripotent stem cells. But what does it all mean? Perhaps a better understanding of the terms would help consumers make wise decisions regarding stem cell treatments.

Apex Biologix, a Utah company that supplies doctors and clinics with PRP and stem cell kits, centrifuges, and other regenerative medicine supplies, says that most of what we read in the news is confined to five different kinds of stem cells. Each of the five is described below.

1. Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells that come from early-stage embryos. The ‘pluripotent’ designation indicates that the cells can differentiate into any of the three human germ layers: endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm. They have been studied by researchers for decades in hopes that new therapies can be derived from them. The main challenge with embryonic stem cells is their instability. They can easily mutate into cancerous cells.

2. Amniotic Stem Cells

Amniotic stem cells are multi-potent stem cells derived from amniotic fluid. The ‘multi-potent’ designation indicates that the cells can differentiate into different kinds of tissue within the same germ layer. Growing numbers of regenerative medicine clinics are offering amniotic stem cell treatments with the understanding that they might help some patients.

3. Adult Stem Cells

Just as the name suggests, adult stem cells are stem cells derived from adult tissue. Even as adults, our bodies continue to generate stem cells. The downside is that our bodies make fewer stem cells the older we grow. Some stem cells that have reached the end of their ability to regenerate can cause diseases, like cancer.

4. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Once again, a pluripotent stem cell is one that can differentiate into any of the three germ layers. An induced pluripotent cell is an adult stem cell that has been genetically modified to force it to behave like a natural pluripotent cell. Induced pluripotent stem cells represent one of the greatest areas of research now being undertaken in regenerative medicine. They appear to hold a lot of promise.

5. Autologous Stem Cells

When you read about autologous stem cells, you are reading about adult stem cells that are designated by their source rather than function. An autologous stem cell is one that you provide for your own treatment. That is the only characteristic that differentiates it from other adult stem cells.

Among all of the different stem cells mentioned in this post, autologous stem cells are perhaps the most important to remember. Why? Because almost all of the regenerative medicine procedures now being offered for osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, hair loss, and aesthetic medicine are autologous.

Doctors use these cells for a number of reasons. First, there is very little risk of complication or rejection. Second, doctors do not require FDA approval as long as the autologous stem cells remain minimally manipulated. The cells are already approved by the FDA.

Now you know a bit more about the different types of stem cells. Watch for these terms next time you read a news article. Knowing what they mean should give you a more clear understanding of the information.

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