STEM CELL GLOSSARY
Below is a compendium of stem cell biology terms that are used throughout this website and in the scientific literature regarding stem cells. It is compiled here for your reference.
“Adipose tissue” is a medical term for body fat. It serves important functions as a connective tissue around organs, between muscles, immediately under the skin, and in other bodily locations.
In the stem cell context, allogeneic means using cells from another animal (the “donor”) as the source of stem cells for treatment.
In the stem cell context, autologous means using cells taken from the same animal receiving stem cell therapy. Autologous treatment begins with the patient’s own cells as the source of the treatment.
Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells
(BMSC or BM-MSC)
BM-MSCs are multipotent stem cells harvested either through the blood after a series of injections to stimulate the body to produce more BM-MSCs or directly from bone marrow. BMSCs are usually collected using bone marrow aspiration, which involves inserting a needle into a chosen bone in the animal and removing a small volume of marrow.
A specialized cell that produces and maintains cartilaginous structure, allowing cartilage to perform its various functions in a healthy joint.
An adjective used to describe stem cells that have been induced toward cartilage production.
Daughter cells are the product of stem cell division and can be any type of cell along the progression from stem cell to differentiated, specialized cell.
The process by which a stem cell morphs from an undifferentiated cell type into a specialized cell. Certain growth factors and other chemical cell signaling induces multipotent stem cells to undergo differentiation.
The germ layer of cell lineage that comprises the “outer layer” of tissues, such as epidermis (skin), hair and nails, certain epithelia (lining tissue), and tooth enamel, as well as nervous system tissues (neuroectoderm).
The innermost germ layer of cell lineage that lies within the ectoderm and mesoderm and comprises the internal organs of the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, the endocrine glands, and some epithelial tissues.
Fractionation (of cells)
A process by which heterogenous cellular material is separated into different layers comprising fractions of the original material.
Germ layers refer to the macro-lineages stem cells follow early in embryonic development. All adult stem and specialized cells are members of one of the three germ layers (endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm). The germ layers can be understood as high-level families of different types of cells. Stem cells in each germ layer are multipotent down each germinal layer.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC)
MSCs are stem cells from the mesoderm germ layer. Mesenchymal refers to cells that develop into connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue. Thus, MSCs include adipose-derived stem cells, plasma-derived stem cells, and bone-marrow derived stem cells, but can be found in other tissues as well (dental pulp, the synovial lining of joints, etc.).
The “middle” germ layer of cell lineage comprising connective tissues, muscle (including cardiac tissue), blood vessels and cells, kidneys, bone and cartilage, the dermis (subsurface skin), the gonads, and the adrenal cortex. Mesenchymal tissues (and stem cells) are part of the mesoderm.
Multipotent Stem Cells
Multipotent stem cells can differentiate into multiple different types of specialized cells within a certain cell lineage. Adult stem cells (such as adipose-derived stem cells and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells) are multipotent. The range of different cells a multipotent cell can produce depends on the type and source of the multipotent cell, usually defined by the tissue in which it resides.
A somewhat differentiated stem cell that remains multipotent but will differentiate further only into certain specific cells.
A partially differentiated cell that is unipotent, i.e., it can differentiate only into one type of specialized cell.
Pluripotent Stem Cells
Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into all or almost all of the different types of specialized cells that make up the body, but are not able to develop into an entire organism.
Somatic Stem Cells
A class of non-embryonic stem cell that includes adult stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells.
Stemness is a property of stem cells that describes the molecular and genetic signaling systems that regulate how and when a stem cell renews itself or differentiates into daughter cells.
Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF)
A heterogenous population of cells separated from adipose tissue using enzymes and/or centrifugal processes to remove most fat cells from the cell mixture. The fraction usually contains white blood cells, fibroblasts (a precursor cell that contributes to the structure of connective tissues), endothelial cells (cells that form a barrier between blood vessels and tissues), MSCs, and muscle cells.
Synovial tissue lines the inside of articulating joints. Its purpose is to secrete synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint and provides nutrients needed by surrounding cartilage.
Totipotent Stem Cells
Totipotent stem cells are capable of dividing and differentiating, over time and through stages, into all the different types of cell in the body, up to and including the formation of an entire organism. Certain embryonic stem cells are the only totipotent cells.
In the stem cell context, xenogeneic means using stem cells from one species of animal in a different species.
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