Stem cells are proliferative, largely unspecialized cells, with the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during development. In the adult, some perform organ maintenance, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells throughout life. Stem cells are also distinguished from other cell types in part because when they divide each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function.
In addition to pluripotent embryonic and multipotent adult (or somatic) stem cells, which have been studied for over 30 years, scientists have more recently developed methods to return fully-differentiated adult somatic cells to a pluripotent stem cell state referred to as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) via "reprogramming." (View reprogramming plasmids) These iPSCs, much like their ES cell cousins, can give rise to an entire adult organism. Additionally, they can be directly differentiated into specific somatic stem cells or fully differentiated cell types.(View differentiation plasmids)
In some cases it is even possible to directly differentiate one differentiated somatic cell into another via transdifferentiation. (View transdifferentiation plasmids)
Many of the techniques for reprogramming, differentiation and transdifferentiation utilize plasmids carrying one or more genes or their viral product. This guide will help you find plasmids available from Addgene that can be used to do so. For a more general overview of stem cells, their importance and up to date research results visit the NIH Stem Cell information page.
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