There are several types of stem cells found in the body that form at various stages of your life. You’ve likely heard of or read about embryonic stem cells, which are only available at the earliest stages of development and, as their name suggests, are derived from fertilized embryos. Embryonic stem cells are incredibly valuable because they can differentiate into every cell type in the body and have countless therapeutic uses for injury and disease. However, there is still a great deal of misinformation and controversy surrounding these stem cells because they are taken from a fertilized egg.
A vast majority of embryonic stem cells are collected from embryos that develop from donor eggs fertilized in vitro, meaning in a lab. They are not derived from an egg fertilized inside a woman’s body. By directing these lab-grown stem cells into specific cell types, stem cells may be used to repair many diseases or injuries, including vision and hearing loss, diabetes, heart disease, traumatic spinal injuries and other severe conditions.
Adult stem cells, on the other hand, develop during fetal development and remain in your body for the rest of your life. Also called somatic stem cells, adult stem cells are more specialized than embryonic stem cells. Typically, adult stem cells are tissue-specific, meaning they can generate different types of cells for the specific tissue or organ when they live.
Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are a type of adult stem cells that are multipotent, meaning they can differentiate into more than one type of specialized cell in the body, but not every type. MSCs produce different specialized cells found in skeletal tissue, including bone, cartilage or fat cells. While MSCs have not yet been proven to produce other types of cells outside of skeletal tissues, their abilities continue to be researched. MSCs can be easily isolated and collected from a variety of tissues in the body, like the umbilical cord, bone marrow, adipose tissue (fat), and uterus tissue.