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Identifying Different Types of Stem Cells, and How They're Used

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 10 January 2017
Identifying Different Types of Stem Cells, and How They're Used

Not only are stem cells a source of effective treatment for an array of ailments, but a source of hope too.

The potential upside of employing stem cell research to combat some of the deadliest diseases of our time - Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, and more - remains a beacon of light for people suffering from such conditions.

But stem cell technology, no matter the intent, has always been the subject of controversy. In spite of these moral objections - particularly the harvesting of embryonic stem cells (ESC), in the eyes of those who support life from inception - results from clinical trials involving stem cells is encouraging.

And who can blame stem cell scientists? The allure of stem cells to work like an internal repair system, continuously dividing and renewing through cell division, combined with the capacity to differentiate into any cell in the body, holds the potential to eliminate injuries & disease that were once thought untreatable.

Perhaps stem cells are seen negatively because the average person isn't aware that there's more than the 'morally wrong' ESCs; there are various types of stem cells that carry out different purposes for our bodies. Here are the most common types, and what they're generally used for.

Embryonic Stem Cells

The most infamous stem cells around, embryonic stem cells (ESC) are how all stem cells were given a bad rep.

As mentioned, it's the stem cell that's received the most scrutiny for being immoral. This is due to how ESCs are created: grown in a laboratory, scientists use cells harvested from 3-to-5 day old embryos that were created during an in vitro fertilization procedure. Activists consider those embryos life, and tampering with them is akin to ending a human life.

Regardless of your stance, there's no denying ESCs effectiveness in stem cell treatments. ESCs are the cell type that possesses the seemingly impossible ability to transform into any cell type, like muscle, blood, or nerve. This makes them extremely flexible when dealing with a diversity of injuries, chronic pain, bone breaks, burns, muscle tears, disease, or illness; the applications are almost endless.

And while research is ongoing, ESCs have shown the potential to treat seriously debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease & stroke, and a variety of permanent injuries.

Adult Stem Cells

Also known as tissue stem cells, adult stem cells don't possess the innate gift to differentiate into other cell types. That means they aren't pluripotent, but multipotent.

What does that mean? Adult stem cells can therefore only be used to treat the area they originated from. For example, muscle stem cells can only differentiate into muscle cells, and neuron cells must be used for brain diseases or injury.

Some damaged cells can be replaced via cells from other organs in the body, but the number that can be grown is limited. 

Adipose Derived Stem Cells

Used in our very own regenerative medicine clinics, adipose derived stem cells (ADSC) are taken from a person's adipose, or fat. When combined with platelet rich plasma (PRP), the therapeutic combination facilitates enhanced musculoskeletal healing thanks to the ADSC's living bioscaffold and multipotent cell replenishment source, meaning it can differentiate to any cell like ESCs can.

Our very own Dr. Douglas Stoddard explains it best!

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers are still scratching the surface of induced pluripotent stem cells' (iPSC) potential. They're a type of adult stem cell, but can be reprogrammed similar to ESCs.

A lot more research is needed for this cell type, though initial studies show promise for stem cell therapies in the future. One upside is the development & refinement of iPSC's, due to their similar properties with ESCs, can potentially phase out the need for the controversial cell type. This alone will lift a huge weight off the stem cell community, as they'll be liberated from the negative connotations attached to the immoral use of stem cell research.

Having said that, researchers are still trying to develop a method that will enable iPSCs to treat varieties of health conditions.

Cord Blood Stem Cells

Finally, the least-popular of stem cells - cord blood stem cells. These cells are collected from the umbilical cord after a child birth. While they don't have the wide range of uses as the other cell types, cord blood cells have been successfully used to treat blood-related cancer & genetic blood disorders.


Our RegenerVate clinics are already utilizing the potent healing potential of stem cells through our various injection therapies & regenerative medicines. From tendon, muscle, and meniscal tears, to arthritis and other ailments, our treatments utilize your body's own natural healing ability to expedite the recovery process.

Call us today at 1-855-847-3975 to schedule an appointment, or drop by one of our RegenerVate locations!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Stem Cell Research

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