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Stem Cell | Open Access Journals
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Journal of Biomedical Systems & Emerging Technologies

Open Access

Stem Cell

In multicellular organisms, stem cells are undifferentiated or partially differentiated cells that can differentiate into various types of cells and divide indefinitely to produce more of the same stem cell. They are the earliest type of cell in a cell lineage.[1] They are found in both embryonic and adult organisms, but they have slightly different properties in each. They are usually distinguished from progenitor cells, which cannot divide indefinitely, and precursor or blast cells, which are usually committed to differentiating into one cell type.

In mammals, the roughly 50–150 cells that make up the inner cell mass during the blastocyst stage of embryonic development, around days 5–14, have stem-cell capability. In vivo, they eventually differentiate into all of the body's cell types (i.e., they are pluripotent). This process starts with the differentiation into the three germ layers – the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm – at the gastrulation stage. However, when they are isolated and cultured in vitro, they can be kept in the stem-cell stage and are known as embryonic stem cells (ESCs).

Adult stem cells are found in a few select locations in the body, known as niches, such as those in the bone marrow or gonads. They exist to replenish rapidly lost cell types and are multipotent or unipotent, meaning they only differentiate into a few cell types or one cell type. In mammals, they include, among others, hematopoietic stem cells, which replenish blood and immune cells, basal cells, which maintain the skin epithelium, and mesenchymal stem cells, which maintain bone, cartilage, muscle and fat cells. Adult stem cells constitute a small minority of cells; they are vastly outnumbered by the progenitor cells and terminally differentiated cells that they differentiate into

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