The body has a variety of “specialized” stem cells to help all the various types of cells that you have.
The very first cell of your body was a stem cell. It was a fertilized egg or zygote, a germ cell that was totipotent. Totipotent means that the stem cell is capable of generating all the other cells of the body.
As this first stem cell divided, it created eight embryonic stem cells like itself that then replicated themselves into eight more embryonic stem cells. Several of these stem cells were used to build a connection with your mother, first through the chorion and then through the umbilical cord and placenta.
The embryo continued dividing to become the blastocyst, a cell of thirty-two stem cells. Small remnants of these later cells are called “very small embryonic-like stem cells” or VSEL stem cells. These VSEL stem cells have been found in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies and in the bone marrow of children and adults. They are, however, more prevalent in children and seldom found in the elderly. These embryonic-like stem cells have the advantages of the true embryonic stem cell – of being able to produce most of the cells of the body, including the germ cells. However, the VSEL stem cell is also “mature” enough to know when to stop. This is important because a young embryonic stem cell is programmed to divide and create a whole new body which, in another whole body, is called a teratoma or tumor. The VSEL stops dividing when it bumps up against another cell, which is a good fail-safe mechanism for preventing cancer’s out of control expansion. So you may have within you, these small embryonic-like stem cells that are primitive enough to divide into whatever cells are dead or dying and need to be replaced. The legal small print is that if you take care of yourself, these special stem cells may be able to survive for longer periods of time in your body and help you enjoy a long and healthy life. However, if too many toxins accumulate and affect your bone marrow, these VSEL cells may be the first stem cells to die off and become extinct.
As the embryonic stem cells accumulate in the blastocyte, they begin to form three layers – the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. From these layers are created progenitor cells that are considered multipotent. They are able to divide into “worker” cells of their particular lineage.
The ectoderm is the outer layer of the blastocyst and the first layer to form. The surface ectoderm divides into cells that become the skin, hair and sensory organs. The developing neural crest becomes the nervous system and the neural tube becomes the spinal cord. The ectoderm progenitor cells divide into neurons and glia cells. The glia help nourish and protect the neurons. They also divide into oligodendrocytes that produce myelin. Myelin sheaths are layers of insulation around nerves, much like the black insulation around electrical wires in a house. Instead of being black, the glia cells are white and form the “white matter” of the brain and the blood-brain-barrier. The white matter is often affected in cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Neurons are considered “grey matter.” The neurons are often affected by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson’s disease. The mesoderm is the middle layer of the blastocyst that divides into progenitor cells to produce red and white blood cells and platelets, bone cells, cartilage, muscles, the heart and much of the circulatory system, the spleen, connective tissue, reproductive system and the urinary system.
The endoderm is the inner layer of cells of the blastocyst that produce the cells of the lungs and respiratory system, the endocrine glands, the liver, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract.
Many of these different types of primitive stem cells are present in the bone marrow of adults and the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. For over fifty years, bone marrow has been used to replenish the blood and bone marrow in cancer patients after irradiation or chemotherapy. Since 1988, cord blood has also been used for this purpose.
This research has opened new horizons for stem cell research. Bone marrow and umbilical cord stem cells have the longest tract record of safety. These stem cells are multipotent, able to divide into a variety of cells, and they show great promise as therapies for kidney, liver, heart and lung disorders, diabetes and other autoimmune disorders and brain injuries and disorders, including spinal cord injuries.
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