Cells in our body have specialized functions. However, stem cells are cells that have yet to develop a specific role and can become almost any cell that is needed within the body.

Stem cells make scientists very excited, as they could help increase the understanding of certain diseases, allow for the regeneration of healthy cells to replace sick cells, applied to regenerative medicine, transplantations, drug discovery, and cytotoxicity. Stem cells can be embryonic, or adult. Embryonic stem cells come from embryos and are pluripotent. Pluripotent means that these stem cells can divide to self replicate Oren become any type of cell in the body. Adult stem cells are found within bone marrow or fat. These adult stem cells can give rise to various (but limited) types of cells in the body, unlike embryonic stem cells whom of which have a broader range of versatility.

Ethical issues surround the use of embryonic stems cells, and adult stem cells have less functionality for research, therefore, scientists have learned how to essentially reprogram adult cells (who already has specific functions) into stem cells (that can become anything the body needs!) – these are called pluripotent stem cells.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are derived from adult cells. iPSCs have three characteristics: pluripotency, self-renewal, and the ability to undergo differentiation (becoming an adult cell that no longer divides). The ability of iPSCs to form three germ layers allows scientists to harness these cells for studying disorders of the human body. Of interest for rain research iPSCs ability to differentiate into the ectoderm is critical because this is the beginning of the nervous system.

To see how scientists can manipulate the environment of these iPSCs check out the poster: iPSCs

Featured image is of differentiated human neurons.