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Stem cells are the building blocks of various organs and tissues in the body. 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 specialised function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

These unspecialised cells have the following defining properties:
1) The ability to differentiate into other cells, and
2) The ability to self-regenerate and perpetually create more copies of themselves.

Hence these stem cells can be used as an alternative to adult bone marrow. Cord blood stem cells have been useful in transplants for various disease of blood and immune system as well as a few metabolic disorders.

There are several types of Stem Cells, including:

  • The Totipotent stem cell (e.g. fertilized egg) - which can develop into all cell types including the embryonic membranes.
  • The Pleuripotent stem cell which can develop into cells from all three germinal layers.
  • The Oligopotent, bipotent or unipotent depending on their ability to differentiate into few, two or one cell type.

Stem cells are found in almost every organ of the body specifically including Bone bone marrow, Adipose tissue, dental pulp, etc. The blood forming stem cells (Haematopoietic stem cells) harvest in the bone marrow after birth and abundance of such cells in their naive form are also found in cord blood that can be collected during the time of birth.

However, it is important to note that most cord blood cells are blood forming stem cells and not multipotent stem cells.