Stem Cells
Stem cells have two defining capabilities that make them unique: first they are able to generate new copies of themselves (self-renewal) and second, they can differentiate a specific function such as blood cells, brain cells or bone cells. There are different levels of stem cell potency: totipotent (able to give rise to an entirely functional organism), pluripotent (able to give rise to all tissue types) and multipotent (able to differentiate into a limited range of cells within a tissue type).
Multipotent stem cells can be found in adult humans. Adult stem cells play an essential role in the daily health and maintenance of our body - for example 200 billion red blood cells are created each day in the body from haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) found in the bone marrow.
Recently, a new (artificial) type of stem cell was developed: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSC). IPSC's can be derived from adult somatic cells and have similar pluripotent properties to Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC) - without involving the controversial use of embryos. Stem cells may be promising tools for treating diseases in which a cellular and tissue destruction occur. Stem cells could for example provide healthy cells to replace cells that were damaged by a stroke.
Public Health: Regenerative medicine using stem cells could replace damaged cells after a spinal cord injury, a stroke and degenerative neurological diseases. It can also replace damaged myocardial cells after a heart attack. In the near-future, scientists hope to grow synthetic organs and tissues from stem cells for transplantation.
Drug Development: The pharmaceutical industry is increasingly adopting stem cells for drug development to test the safety and quality of investigational drugs before using them for people.
Disease Modelling: Scientists could use stem cells derived from patients to model the mechanism of disease development in the laboratory and better understand what goes wrong.

Totipotent/Pluripotent/Multipotent, Adult stem cells, Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs), Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Regenerative medicine, Bioengineering, Synthetic organs