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Stem Cell Basics

What are stem cells?

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.


Watch a QuickTime video of stem cells dividing

The pages linked below cover basic information about stem cells. For a more detailed discussion, see our Stem Cell Reports. Or you can check the Frequently Asked Questions page for quick answers to specific queries.

> Throughout Stem Cell Basics, the first reference to a Glossary term on a page appears in bold, underlined maroon type. Clicking on the term will open its definition from the Glossary page in a new window.

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  1. Introduction
  2. What are the unique properties of all stem cells?
  3. What are embryonic stem cells?
  4. What are adult stem cells?
  5. What are the similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells?
  6. What are the potential uses of human stem cells and the obstacles that must be overcome before these potential uses will be realized?
  7. Where can I get more information?