What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are simple-looking cells with specialized functions found in nearly all tissues in the body.

They can make copies of themselves and “self-renew.”

They have remarkable ability to become (“differentiate” into) many different kinds of cells.

What are Embryonic Stem Cells?

It all begins with fertilization.

Embryonic stem cells appear at the blastocyst stage of the embryo.

They are pluripotent (able to mature into any of the 200+ different cell types in the body).

They are immortal and can reproduce indefinitely.

They can be grown in large quantities in the laboratory.

What are Adult Stem Cells?

Adult stem cells are multipotent (they can mature into a few cell types).

They have the capacity to divide long-term, but they are not immortal.

These are the cells that make up organ systems within your body — like your skin, blood, and gut.

What are Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells?

Induced pluripotent stem cells are derived from adult cells (from skin, blood, urine, etc.) that have been “reprogrammed” in the lab.

They have been taken back to an embryonic stem cell-like state.

They can then be made or differentiated into any cell type in the body.

Keeping Our Cells in Balance

Many degenerative diseases result from cell deficiency.

Stem cells give us a way to replenish the cells that are lost or dysfunctional.

On the other hand, cancer is a disease of cellular excess caused by mutated genes in adult stem cells that multiply uncontrollably and can affect many parts of the body.

Precision medicine targets each cancer to find its “Achilles heel.”

Using Stem Cells to Build New Tissue

Researchers can now engineer new tissue from stem cell-derived cells.

“Organoids” are miniaturized and simplified versions of organs, built from this tissue to mimic actual human organs.

These lab-generated tissue organoids are used for drug screening and disease modeling.

Creating Patient-Specific Stem Cells to Target Disease Precisely

Disease modeling allows researchers to discover the deficiency in the patient’s unhealthy cells.

This allows doctors to identify medications or additional therapies that can improve the function of these cells.

Genetically repaired cells taken from a patient can potentially be used to treat the patient without rejection.

Seattle: Birthplace of Stem Cell Medicine

The very first stem cell treatment, bone marrow transplantation, was developed at the University of Washington.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine is building on this legacy by developing the science to create future regenerative therapies.