Stem cells possess three key properties: they are unspecialized, they can renew themselves over time and they can develop into cells with specific functions. Stem cells are broadly classified into two types—embryonic and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can develop into all cell types in the body and are therefore capable of forming an entire organism. In contrast, adult stem cells generally are multipotent and have the ability to develop into the different cell types within the tissue in which they are found, a process also known as differentiation. Adult stem cells are found in virtually all tissues. Through asymmetrical division, adult stem cells maintain a pool of their own cell type to provide continual repair and regeneration benefits for an organism throughout its life span. Without a pool of effective, proliferating adult stem cells, the continual loss of fully differentiated cells cannot be replenished and the tissue soon loses the ability to function.
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