What are tissue stem cells?
Tissue stem cells are found in organs all over the body. They have the ability to make cells specific to the tissue of the organ where they are found and are required for the normal function of that organ.
One of the most well recognised tissue stem cells are those found in bone marrow. These blood or haematopoietic stem cells are responsible for making red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. These include:
- The red blood cells that transport oxygen around our body. They only have a life span of 120 days and are continuously being made in the bone marrow
- The white blood cells, which are important for protecting you against infection and
- Platelets, which play a major role in forming blot clots.
If something goes wrong with the stem cells within the bone marrow production line, the patient could develop anaemia (lack of red blood cells), leukaemia (too many abnormal blood cells) or suffer a massive loss of blood (failure of blood to clot).
Tissue stem cells can also be found in other organs such as the skin, the lining of the gut, liver and even the brain. You may also have heard of ‘mesenchymal stem cells’ or MSCs (also called ‘mesenchymal stromal cells’). These cells are found in bone marrow, fat and other tissues and in the lab can make cartilage as well as bone and fat. MSCs will have different properties depending on where in the body they are obtained and how they are handled and grown in the lab.