In simple terms, a stem cell is a single cell that can replicate itself (self-renew and generate perfect copies of itself upon division) OR differentiate into many cell types (produce specialized cell types that perform specific functions in the body).
To use an analogy, a stem cell is like a joker in a deck of cards. We can decide what the joker will become. We can have the Joker become an ace of spades or a ten of hearts etc.
As such, a stem cell can become a blood cell, brain cell, cartilage, muscle cell, tendon, ligament, skin etc. Or a stem cell can simply replicate itself and make another stem cell.
These properties allow for the production of unlimited quantities of defined cell types for use in research, transplantation and regeneration.
Stem cells therefore replace damaged tissue, and rebuild and regenerate the tissue to be NEW and fully FUNCTIONAL once again.
Important to realize is that our BODY has many stem cells in it, but most of them are inactive. In other words, we have the machinery available to stay young and repair and renew our cells, tissues and organs but the machinery needs to be turned on. It’s the SIGNALING (turning on the ‘on’ switch) that’s missing in our body.
But even if we can TURN ON the machinery and ACTIVATE our stem cells, they still would need the TOOLS and a PLAN to repair and rebuild connective tissue.
For example, if you need your roof repaired, we need a roofer. We can activate the roofer and tell him to repair the roof. Even though he may be very capable and willing, he will need the specific tools to repair and rebuild the roof, and a blue-print or engineering plan to do so effectively. Furthermore, if the roofer needs help because the project is big, the roofer will need more roofers.
The same holds true for stem cells. We can activate the stem cells and ask them to repair a rotator cuff tendon for example. How are stem cells signaled or activated in the body? Growth Factors (GF) is the answer. GF’s activate and stimulate stem cells and wake them up out of their dormant state.
Now, these stem cells will need BIO-MOLECULES such as proteins (TOOLS) and a COLLAGEN SCAFFOLD (ENGINEERING PLAN or STRUCTURAL BLUE PRINT) to effectively repair, rebuild, regenerate and renew the tendon. Does that make sense? In case the tissue damage is extensive, stem cells may replicate themselves and generate more stem cells to get the job done.
Another important fact about stem cells: the number of stem cells in our body drastically declines with age, and therefore less and less stem cells are available for activation as we age.
This graph shows the decline in the amount of stem cells available as we age.