Stem cells are essential for all living organisms due to their unique regenerative properties. When adult stem cells divide, they have the potential to develop into many other types of cell with more specialized functions, such as muscle cells, brain cells or red blood cells. This remarkable multipotent differentiation ability means that stem cells underpin many aspects of early development and growth. In some adult tissues, such as brain, muscle and bone marrow, discrete populations of adult stem cells can also replenish other cells that are lost through normal wear and tear, injury, or disease.
The three characteristics that distinguish stem cells from other cells are:
- They are unspecialized cells that can differentiate into specialized cell types
- They can divide and renew themselves for long periods
- Under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, stem cells can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions
These characteristics mean that stem cells have many exciting applications in disease research and in developing novel therapeutics. For example, in regenerative medicine, work is well underway to understand how stem cells can be used in cell-based therapies to treat a range of diseases. In vitro stem cell culture is also being used to screen new drugs as well as to develop model systems for studying pathological pathways of disease to identify therapeutic targets.
Scientists have primarily worked with embryonic or pluripotent stem cells (involved in early development) and adult stem cells (involved in repair) derived from both animals and humans. A new type of human stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has also recently been developed. These are genetically reprogrammed, specialized human adult cells that assume a stem cell-like state. The reprogramming process, known as transfection, has been previously challenging in stem cells, particularly using non-viral transfection methods.
In the following sections, we outline the methodological principles of in vitro stem cell culture and its benefits and challenges, and how our innovative NucleofectorTM Technology can help to overcome the challenges of transfecting stem cells. We also review the different types of stem cells we offer, including iPSCs and adult stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). This will help you to identify which types are best suited to your needs. Lastly, we look at the different applications of stem cell culture, including in disease research and therapy, to elucidate the importance of stem cells in clinical and research progression.