Both adult and embryonic stem cells are important potential tools for the development of therapeutic
treatments for various medical conditions, from type 1 diabetes to Parkinson’s disease to spinal cord
injuries. It is far too early to tell which stem cell type will prove most useful in scientific research leading to
therapies and cures for any specific disease.
Because of this uncertainty, JDRF’s scientific position is aligned with leading stem cell scientists, prominent
research organizations, and Nobel Laureates: Research should be vigorously pursued on both adult and
embryonic stem cells. If there is one point on which virtually all stem cell scientists agree, it is that much
more needs to be learned about how stem cells work in order to use them most effectively. Researchers
have only begun to understand how the body grows and repairs itself, and increasing this knowledge base
is necessary to achieving the full potential of stem cells.
ProPerties of Adult stem Cells
Adult stem cells exist in small amounts in several tissues in the body, helping maintain and repair those
tissues. (This includes stem cells found in umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid.) Adult stem cells
typically have the capacity to become any cell type in that particular tissue. Scientists have been studying
adult stem cells for about 50 years; the most notable success involves blood-forming hematopoietic
stem cells, which have proven useful as replacements for the bone marrow in different blood-related
illnesses. Research has suggested that certain kinds of adult stem cells, given the right conditions, may
have the ability to differentiate into a number of different cell types, and that possibility is being pursued
aggressively. Scientists in many laboratories are trying to find ways to grow adult stem cells in cell culture
and manipulate them to generate specific cell types so they can be used to treat injury or disease.
ProPerties of embryoniC stem Cells
Embryonic stem cells are derived from 4-to-5-day-o