We are predominantly made up of red blood cells. These cells would constantly move inside our bodies to help deliver oxygen to the different parts in our system and they also act as a sweeper that will clean the waste products away as well. You could say that they do valuable work, but because of their nature, they do not last for a very long time.
Red blood cells would only last a month before it gets replenished by new ones. But, what could replace them? Well, that would be the job of the stem cells.
Stem cells are a special group of cells that has two unique characteristics. It divides into daughter cells which also copy or mimic the properties of their parent cells. It can also turn into whatever cell that is found within our bodies or the bodies of different hosts (assuming that we are talking about other organisms).
You see, ordinary cells that you find in certain parts of our bodies do not turn into different cells. For instance, skin cells would only turn into skin cells and liver cells would only turn into liver cells, and so on.
Stem cells can actually be turned into any type of cell in the body- so long as we need it. According to research and various studies about the topic, stem cells are known to replace damaged cells and worn-out tissues; this includes red blood cells as well.
Adult stem cells are specialized cells that are found within our bodies. They do not have the potential to change into any type of cell, but rather, they can only turn into cells from where they originated from.
For example, blood stem cells reside in our bone marrow and they do have the potential to divide and create millions of copies of themselves. However, when they turn into a cell, they would only differentiate into red or white blood cells.
Red blood cells carry oxygen and clean waste products away from our bodies, while white blood cells act as part of our immune system and would ward off any potential pathogens that might wreak havoc within our bodies.
Another type of stem cell is known as the Pluripotent Stem Cells. It was originally thought that they come only from the embryo. Whenever the embryo reached 3-5 days, they will be called as blastocysts and scientists will be able to extract the stem cells from them.
The use and harvest of embryonic stem cells are considered a no-go due to its moral and ethical implications. That is why scientists are finding ways to make adult stem cells turn into whatever cell the researchers wish they would be.
Shinya Yamanaka discovered that our skin cells can actually be converted into stem cells. Yamanaka induced the mature cells and coax them to become stem cells. This is done by inserting a specific set of genes into the cells.
After a couple of weeks, the cells miraculously behaved like embryonic stem cells which is why they are known as induced pluripotent stem cells.