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Overview of stem cells

David T Scadden, MD
Marc HGP Raaijmakers, MD, PhD
Section Editor
Benjamin A Raby, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


Stem cells are those cells that have the capability of self-renewal and differentiation. First identified in the hematopoietic system, they are likely to be present in many other tissues. Stem cells have altered the care of individuals with hematologic, oncologic, dermatologic, ophthalmologic, and orthopedic conditions. The range of possible applications of stem cells to medicine extends beyond the conception of stem cells as replacement parts (table 1).

The evolving role of stem cells in clinical medicine is developing along at least three lines:

Stem cells as therapy (either to replace cell lines that have been lost or destroyed, or to modify the behavior of other cells)

Stem cells as targets of drug therapy

Stem cells to generate differentiated tissue for in vitro study of disease models for drug development


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Literature review current through: Jun 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 08, 2017.
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