Stem cells are the foundation cells for every organ, tissue and cell in the body. They are like a blank microchip that can ultimately be programmed to perform particular tasks. Stem cells are undifferentiated or “blank” cells that have not yet been fully developed or specialized. Under proper conditions, stem cells begin to develop into specialized tissues and organs.
Adult stem cells, unlike fetal or umbilical stem cells, are more limited in regard to their growth potential. Differentiate means to change into. For example, a caterpillar differentiates into a butterfly. Some caterpillars differentiate into blue butterflies whereas others change into red and yellow colors. The same applies to stem cells.
There are two principal types of adult stem cells: hematopoietic and mesenchymal.
Hematopoietic stem cells are adult stem cells found mainly in bone marrow which differentiate into blood cells such as lymphocytes, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells which can differentiate into fat, cartilage, bone, tendon and ligaments and muscle cells. Unlike most other human adult stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells can be obtained in quantities appropriate for clinical applications, making them good candidates for use in tissue repair. Mesenchymal stem cells have demonstrated the ability to repair long bone fractures, rotator cuff tears and reduce protrusions in the lumbar spine.