Disclaimer: This is a purely educational article on stem cell, regenerative medicine, the hottest treatment in Korea and Taiwan for anti-ageing.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the bread and butter for every tissue, organ in our body.  They possess 2 key properties, the ability to self-renew (make copies of themselves) and differentiate (develop into more specialized cells).

What are the types of stem cells?

  1. Embryonic stem cells
  2. Tissue-specific stem cells (adult stem cells)
  3. Mesenchymal stem cells (adult stem cells)
  4. Induced pluripotent stem cells


Embryonic stem cells

Embryonic stem cells are obtained from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, a mainly hollow ball of cells that, in the human, forms three to five days after an egg cell is fertilized by a sperm. A human blastocyst is about the size of the dot above this “i.” These cells are pluripotent.

The fertilized egg and the cells that immediately arise in the first few divisions are “totipotent.” None of the currently studied embryonic stem cell lines are alone capable of generating a viable embryo (i.e., they are pluripotent, not totipotent).

Adult stem cells – Tissue specific and mesenchymal

Mesenchymal stem cells

Mesenchymal stem cells were originally discovered in the bone marrow, but have since been found throughout the body and can give rise to a large number of connective tissue types such as bone, cartilage and fat.

Tissue-specific stem cells

Tissue-specific stem cells (also referred to as somatic or adult stem cells) are more specialized than embryonic stem cells. Typically, these stem cells can generate different cell types for the specific tissue or organ in which they live. These cells are multi-potent. An example is adipocyte derived stem cell, which is the cell type most commonly used in Regenerative medicine.

Induced pluripotent stem cells

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are cells that have been engineered in the lab by converting tissue-specific cells, such as skin cells, into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells. Researchers are experimenting with many alternative ways to create iPS cells so that they can ultimately be used as a source of cells or tissues for medical treatments.



The embryonic stem cells and iPS are both unstable cells, and can be likened to a wild horse. They cannot be well controlled, and have high oncogenic potential ( cancer-causing), so they are not used in clinical application.

Clinically,  tissue specific stem cells carry the best indication for clinical application due to its stability.

Where are stem cells derived from?

  • Body Fat tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood
  • Umbilical cord
  • Skin

What can stem cell therapy help with?

Stem cell therapy is still at its infancy, and all treatments are conducted in a clinical trial setting. Areas of interest include the following:

  • Anti Ageing – To rewind the clock, repair damaged cells and regenerate healthy new cells
  • Congenital defects
  • Wound healing and recovery from chronic diseases


What are 3 important questions to consider further?

  • How are the stem cells identified, isolated and grown?
  • Are the cells differentiated into specialized cells before therapy?
  • How are the cells delivered to the right part of the body?


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