Pluripotent stem cells refer to the cells that have the ability to make cells from all the three primary body layers. Pluripotent stem cells can produce any cell or tissue that is needed by the body to repair itself.
The potential of these cells to take on many forms in the body is referred to as pluripotency.
An example of a pluripotent stem cell in the body is the embryonic stem cell. The embryonic stem cells exist at the earliest stages of development of the embryo. Pluripotent stem cells originate from different sources.
However, they all give rise to three primary groups of cells. What are the ectoderm, endoderm, and the mesoderm. The three major groups of cells form a human being. The ectoderm gives rise to the skin and nervous system.
The endoderm develops into different organs, including the respiratory tract, pancreas, liver, and the endocrine glands. The mesoderm gives rise to the bone and cartilage. It also forms most parts of the circulatory system and the connective tissue.
Currently, the correct type of pluripotent cells that can be used to develop therapeutic cells have not been determined. However, all the three types of cells are valuable for research purposes.
Types Of Pluripotent Stem Cells
There are four types of Pluripotent Stem Cells that are actively studied by scientists. They include the induced pluripotent stem cell, ‘true’ embryonic stem cell, embryonic stem cells that are produced through somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the embryonic stem cell that is acquired from unfertilized eggs.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
An induced pluripotent stem cell is produced by taking an ordinary cell such as a skin cell and reprograming it through the introduction of several genes that make it pluripotent. The genetically reprogrammed cells are referred to as induced pluripotent stem cells.
The induced pluripotent stem cells have plenty of therapeutic potentials. Since the cells are acquired from a patient's cells, the induced pluripotent cells are genetically matched to that patient to prevent cases of tissue rejection that hinder tissue transplant.
The induced pluripotent cells can be used by scientists to learn on how different diseases develop.
The True Embryonic Stem Cells
They are sourced from embryos that are donated by couples who choose to undergo in vitro fertilization.
The IVF process gives rise to many more embryos than required to achieve pregnancy. The Pluripotent Stem Cells that are acquired from the embryos are not genetically matched to a particular patient.
Hence, they cannot be used to produce cells for therapeutic purposes. Scientists use these stem cells to advance their knowledge of how stem cells differentiate and behave.
Stem Cells Produced By The Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer
Somatic cell nuclear transfer refers to the process of transferring the nucleus from a somatic cell to another cell.
The method of producing stem cells through this procedure has only been successful in lower animals. For the operation to be successful in humans, an egg donor would be required. The process of transferring the nucleus into another different cell reprograms the new cell into a pluripotent cell.
The pluripotent cells acquired needs to match the patient genetically. They can be applied to prevent the cases of tissue matching and tissue rejection that arise during transplants.
Stem Cells Made From Unfertilized Egg
An unfertilized egg can be manipulated to develop embryos without being necessarily fertilized by a sperm. The process in known as parthenogenesis. The procedure allows a woman to donate her eggs to give rise to pluripotent stem cells that match her genetically. The pluripotent stem cells can be used to lead to cells that will not be rejected by the body's immune system.
How Do Pluripotent Stem Cells Work?
Pluripotent stem cells utilize distinct sets of genes to differentiate into another cell. The stem cells work by dividing to give rise to identical copies of themselves repeatedly.
The defining property of stem cells is self-renewal. Stem cells also have the ability to divide and give rise to more specialized cell types. The process is referred to as differentiation. The stem cells that arise from different tissues and vary in number and types of cells that they can produce.
Uses Of Pluripotent Stem Cells
1. Induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential of being used to model human diseases.
They are being applied to make new discoveries about congenital heart diseases, premature aging, and cancer, among others. They can also be used to produce cells that won't be rejected by the recipient's immune system.
2. The embryonic stem cells are the gold standard in the field of pluripotency. Researchers are using these cells to find out safer ways of creating induced pluripotent stem cells.
The embryonic stem cells from the donated embryos are crucial for determining the earliest stages of human development. They are also used to find out how tissues form.
The embryonic stem cells acquired through nuclear transfer are important for developing customized and rejection-proof tissues and cells for transplant. They are the best option of producing genetically-matched stem cells.
The embryonic stem cells acquired through parthenogenesis can also be used to create cells and tissues that are resistant to rejection by the immune system during transplantation. They are easy to produce and they can be used to produce cell-based therapy through genetic typing.
3. The human pluripotent stem cells are used by researchers to test for new drugs. The new medications are tested for safety and effectiveness.
Risks And Side Effects Of Pluripotent Stem Cells
Although pluripotent cells have been recommended for treatment of various conditions, some studies claim that individuals may be exposed to increased risk of developing cancer.
Some studies suggest that some features of stem cells, such as the long life span, resemble that of cancerous cells. As a result, stem cells are seen as potential candidates for malignant transformation.
Studies have also revealed that similar control mechanisms and growth regulators can be found in both stem cells and cancer cells. This explains why tumor development is seen as the major problem when using stem-cell based therapeutic products.
Pluripotent Stem Cells Review Summary
Embryonic stem cells have a great potential for stem-cell based medicinal products. However, its use is constrained by ethical issues.
There is an urgent need to perform research on the possibility of developing pluripotent stem cells from alternate sources. The induced pluripotent stem cells need to be exploited further to determine their clinical potential.