Stem cells are the body’s master cells, responsible for the growth, maintenance and repair of our tissues and organs. Their main job is to be a reservoir for the production of billions of new cells the body needs every day, and as such, they have the unique ability to make copies of themselves, but also make more specialized, tissue-specific cells.
These two traits, known as self-renewal and differentiation, are the cornerstone of regenerative medicine, where scientists are learning to harness these powers to repair or replace tissues that are damaged or destroyed.

Research spotlight

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital and Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre are now teaming up to launch a clinical trial involving people with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which inflammation in the central nervous system damages the protective sheath that covers nerves. This causes physical disability and impaired cognitive function. In the study, specific stem cells will be extracted from each patient’s bone marrow then multiplied in a lab and given back to the patient. Scientists hope the cells will modify these patients’ immune systems. The goal is to reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair.