Adult Stem Cells - Frequently Asked Questions

The primary role of adult stem cells in humans is to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. While we call them adult stem cells, they are more accurately called somatic (from the Greek word soma = body) because they come virtually any body tissue, not only in adults but children and babies as well.

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are very flexible cells, sometimes considered immature, that have not developed to a final specialized cell type (like skin, liver, heart, etc.)  Since they have not yet specialized, stem cells can respond to different signals and needs in the body by becoming any of the various cell types needed, e.g., after an injury to repair an organ.  In that sense they are a bit like a maintenance crew that keeps repairing and replacing damaged or worn out cells in the body.

Why are Stem Cells So Important?

A stem cell is essentially a “blank” cell, capable of becoming another more differentiated cell type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell. Microscopic in size, stem cells are big news in medical and science circles because they can be used to replace or even heal damaged tissues and cells in the body. They can serve as a built-in repair system for the human body, replenishing other cells as long as a person is still alive.

Adult stem cells are a “natural” solution. They naturally exist in our bodies, and they provide a natural repair mechanism for many tissues of our bodies. They belong in the microenvironment of an adult body, while embryonic stem cells belong in the microenvironment of the early embryo, not in an adult body, where they tend to cause tumors and immune system reactions.

Most importantly, adult stem cells have already been successfully used in human therapies for many years. As of this moment, no therapies in humans have ever been successfully carried out using embryonic stem cells. New therapies using adult type stem cells, on the other hand, are being developed all the time. 

Has anyone actually benefited from from adult stem cell research?

  • Well over 1 million patients worldwide have been treated with adult stem cells and experienced improved health, based on data gathered by December 2012.
  • Nearly 70,000 adult stem cell transplants were performed worldwide in 2012 alone.
  • Nearly 20,000 adult stem cell transplants were performed in the United States in 2014 alone.
  • More than 30,000 umbilical cord blood transplants in patients were performed by 2013.
  • Patients in 75 countries worldwide had undergone adult stem cell transplants by 2012.

What diseases and conditions have been treated with adult stem cells?

Stem Cells are being used today to help people suffering from dozens of diseases and conditions.  This list reveals the wide range of applications that adult stem cells are having right now:


  1. Brain Cancer
  2. Retinoblastoma
  3. Ovarian Cancer
  4. Skin Cancer: Merkel Cell Carcinoma
  5. Testicular Cancer
  6. Tumors abdominal organs Lymphoma
  7. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  8. Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  9. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
  10. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
  11. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
  12. Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia
  13. Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia
  14. Cancer of the lymph nodes: Angioimmunoblastic Lymphadenopathy
  15. Multiple Myeloma
  16. Myelodysplasia
  17. Breast Cancer
  18. Neuroblastoma
  19. Renal Cell Carcinoma
  20. Various Solid Tumors
  21. Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  22. Ewing's Sarcoma
  23. Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia
  24. Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis
  25. POEMS syndrome
  26. Myelofibrosis

Auto-Immune Diseases

  1. Diabetes Type I (Juvenile)
  2. Systemic Lupus
  3. Sjogren's Syndrome
  4. Myasthenia
  5. Autoimmune Cytopenia
  6. Scleromyxedema
  7. Scleroderma
  8. Crohn's Disease
  9. Behcet's Disease
  10. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  11. Juvenile Arthritis
  12. Multiple Sclerosis
  13. Polychondritis
  14. Systemic Vasculitis
  15. Alopecia Universalis
  16. Buerger's Disease


  1. Acute Heart Damage
  2. Chronic Coronary Artery Disease


  1. Corneal regeneration
  2. Macular Degeneration

Neural Degenerative Diseases and Injuries

  1. Parkinson's Disease
  2. Spinal Cord Injury
  3. Stroke Damage

Anemias and Other Blood Conditions

  1. Sickle Cell Anemia
  2. Sideroblastic Anemia
  3. Aplastic Anemia
  4. Red Cell Aplasia
  5. Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
  6. Thalassemia
  7. Primary Amyloidosis
  8. Diamond Blackfan Anemia
  9. Fanconi's Anemia
  10. Chronic Epstein-Barr Infection

Wounds and Injuries

  1. Limb Gangrene
  2. Surface Wound Healing
  3. Jawbone Replacement
  4. Skull Bone Repair

Other Metabolic Disorders

  1. Hurler's Syndrome
  2. Osteogenesis Imperfecta
  3. Krabbe Leukodystrophy
  4. Osteopetrosis
  5. Cerebral X-Linked Adrenoleukodystrophy

 Liver Disease

  1. Chronic Liver Failure
  2. Liver Cirrhosis

                      What are some common misconceptions about stem cell research,                              and embryonic stem cell research in particular?

The primary reason would be the ethics, since getting embryonic stem cells requires destruction of a young human embryo. The other, practical reasons are that people feel money spent on embryonic stem cell research could be better spent on other stem cell research.

The biggest misconception people have about stem cell research is that it is only embryonic that are useful.  In fact, other stem cell types are proving to be much more useful.  The best stem cells for patients are Adult Stem Cells; these are taken from the body (e.g., bone marrow, muscle, even fat tissue) or umbilical cord blood and can be used to treat dozens of diseases and conditions.  Over 1 ½ million people have already been treated with adult stem cells. (versus no proven success with embryonic stem cells.)  Yet most people don’t know about adult stem cells and their practical success.

What is a pluripotent stem cell?

Another type of stem cell that is proving very useful is induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells.)  These can be made from any cell, such as skin, and from any person.  They act like embryonic stem cells, but are made from ordinary cells and so don’t require embryo destruction, making them an ethical source for that type of cell.  They have already been used to create lab models of different diseases.