Stem cells are an unspecialized cell from which all of the specialized cells of the organs of the body develop. This process of specializing cells for a specific function is called differentiation. Stem cells are originally found in embryos as they develop; adult organisms retain stem cells in their fully developed organs to serve as a repair system for worn-out or diseased organs. As such, they are very helpful, as they can regenerate after long periods of inactivity.

There are three main kinds of stem cells:

1. embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, otherwise known as somatic cells, and

2. induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs); and

3. amniotic stem cells and those cells coming from umbilical cord blood.

Stem cells proliferate –that is, they can renew themselves repeatedly. These replicas gradually specialize through a series of steps, determined by the genes of the cell. Scientists are still trying to find what stimuli cause the basic stem cells to differentiate, that is, to develop into different types of tissue. Because of their ability to rejuvenate damaged tissue, stem cells can be used in transplants to help in redeveloping organs.

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