Stem cell – UPSC Prelims

Stem Cell:
  • Stem cells are special cells that can make copies of themselves and change into the many different kinds of cells that the body needs. They have two unique properties that enable them to do this:
    • They can divide over and over again to produce new cells.
    • As they divide, they can change into the other types of cell that make up the body.
  • There are several kinds of stem cells and they are found in different parts of the body at different times.
  • Cancer and cancer treatment can damage the hematopoietic stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells are stem cells that turn into blood cells.
Use of Stem Cells:
  • Research: It helps in understanding the basic biology of how living things work and what happens in different types of cell during disease.
  • Therapy: In replacing lost or damaged cells that the bodies can’t replace naturally.
Types of Stem Cell:
  • Embryonic Stem Cells:
    • They supply new cells for an embryo as it grows and develops into a baby.
    • These stem cells are said to be pluripotent, which means they can change into any cell in the body.
  • Adult Stem Cells:
    • They supply new cells as an organism grows and to replace cells that get damaged.
    • Adult stem cells are said to be multipotent, which means they can only change into some cells in the body, not any cell, for example:
    • Blood (or ‘haematopoietic’) stem cells can only replace the various types of cells in the blood.
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells:
    • ‘Induced’ means that they are made in the lab by taking normal adult cells, like skin or blood cells, and reprogramming them to become stem cells.
    • Just like embryonic stem cells, they are pluripotent so they can develop into any cell type.

What is Stem Cells Transplant?
  • bone marrow transplant is a medical treatment that replaces one’s bone marrow with healthy cells. The replacement cells can either come from the person’s own body or from a donor.
  • A bone marrow transplant is also called a stem cell transplant or, more specifically, a hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
  • Transplantation can be used to treat certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma, and other blood and immune system diseases that affect the bone marrow.
Related Question:
Stem cell therapy is gaining popularity in India to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including leukaemia, Thallessemia, damaged sornea and several burns. Describe briefly what stem cell therapy is and what advantages it has over other treatments? (UPSC 2017)