What are stem cells?

Stem cells are cells capable of self-renewal (making more copies of themselves) and differentiation (making new specialized cells, such as neurons, cardiac and muscle cells). Adult stem cells are present in the developed human body, producing new cells when existing cells are damaged. Adult stem cells are usually limited in their differentiation capacity, while embryonic stem cells are totipotent, capable of producing any type of mature cell. However, many consider the destruction of human embryos a major human rights violation, and thus the debate continues on whether embryonic stem cell research should be federally funded or even allowed.

For posters/handouts introducing stem cell research, check out: Introduction to Stem Cell Research, Adult Stem Cells, Embryonic Stem Cells, and Ethics and Politics. Also, from the National Institutes of Health, check out Research Ethics and Stem Cells.

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Alan Chou | 2008.01.12

The Harvard College Stem Cell Society is a student-run organization at Harvard College. The Harvard name and/or VERITAS shield are trademarks of the President and Fellows of Harvard College and are used by permission of Harvard University.