Explainer: What is a stem cell?

Special cells have ability to turn into several different types

By Alison Pearce Stevens, 14:50 PM June 27, 2013

Human stem cells viewed under a microscope. To better see them, their nuclei have been stained with a blue dye. Credit: iStockphoto

Stem cells are cells that can specialize into many different types. They fall into two main categories: adult stem cells and pluripotent (PLU ree PO tint) stem cells. (Pluripotent means the ability to become many different things.)

Despite their name, adult stem cells are found inside people of all ages, even newborns. Their job is to replace cells that wear out. Although adult stem cells can develop into many different types of cells, they cannot become every type.

Pluripotent stem cells, mean...

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