Get a basic overview of stem cells, and how they are created for research, from this video by the Gladstone Institute. Stem cells have been celebrated for their tremendous therapeutic potential. Our bodies are made up of a huge variety of different types of cells that have very specific functions. Stem cells are unique because they have the ability to become any type of cell in the body.
Obtaining these cells has become a source of controversy. At one point, it was only possible to harvest them for research use by taking material from a five-day-old human embryo, a mass of cells. Because that effectively destroyed the embryo, the technology has been hotly debated. A breakthrough came when a researcher, Shinya Yamanaka, figured out how to turn some types of adult cells into stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells.
These stem cells have been a big help to scientists hampered by an inability to obtain them. While their full potential has not yet been realized, they could be used in regenerative therapeutics and personalized medicine in the future.