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Adult stem cells vs. Embryonic stem cells


When stem cells and their amazing properties first made the news, much of the focus was on a specific type called “embryonic” stem cells. Many people have raised ethical concerns about embryonic stem cells, primarily because they are harvested from destroyed human embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization.

More than 40 years ago, researchers discovered that certain cells contained within our bone marrow have the ability to perform a number of healing functions. We call these cells “adult stem cells.” (your doctor may also use the terms “mesenchymal” or “somatic” in place of “adult.”) Like a college student whose major is “undeclared,” these cells are in a stage where they haven’t yet decided what type of cell to be. They may: 

Embryonic Stem Cells

  • Requires destruction of human embryos
  • Comes from another person and may be rejected by the patient’s body
  • May cause tumors at the point of injection 

Adult stem cells

  • Does not harm the donor
  • Comes from the patient’s own body and will not be rejected
  • Has shown no risk for tumor formation, supported by a study of nearly 2,000 patients with an average follow-up of more than 12 years
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