About Stem Cells

Stem cell science is an extremely fast moving field of research and this swiftly changing landscape has seen many different stem cell types and technologies. What are stem cells and what makes them so interesting?

What type of stem cells are there?

Stem cells can be divided into two broad groups: tissue specific stem cells (also known as adult stem cells) and pluripotent stem cells (including embryonic stem cells and iPS cells).  Tissue specific stem cells are derived from, or resident in, adult tissues, and can usually only give rise to the cells of that tissue, thus they are considered multipotent. Embryonic stem cells, derived from a small group of cells in the early embryo (5-7 days), and iPS cells are undifferentiated and are considered pluripotent as they can become every type of cell in the body.

What are induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)?

Recently, scientists discovered that a mature fully specialised cell, for example a human skin cell, in the right conditions could be induced to mimic the characteristics of an embryonic stem cell. These are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). 

For all definitions, see Terminology.

How are stem cells used in research?

Stem cells can be used in a number of ways to help researchers
  • Understand genetic processes
  • Discover and screen new drugs
  • Study disease in the lab
  • Create cellular therapy applications

What are the roles of clinical trials in the development of new treatments?

Clinical trials are undertaken to test whether a proposed new therapy is safe and effective. It is a very important part of clinical research. Results from clinical trials are shared so that the broader medical, scientific and patient communities can benefit from this knowledge. Read more about clinical trials

Where can I get more information on stem cells?

Credit: Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, affiliates of Stem Cells Australia. 

Australian Stem Cell
ISSCR Patient
A Closer Look at 
Stem Cells