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They also don’t need guidance from other cells. And they don’t produce tumours. These can occur with certain other types of stem cells.

Specialised cells made from AFS cells include all three types of cell found in a developing embryo. These are known as ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.

Their great flexibility and potential for growth, means that AFS cells are very similar to human embryonic stem cells. These are able to generate every different type of cell in the body.

The full range of cells that AFS cells can produce is not known yet, said Atala. “So far we’ve been successful with every cell type we’ve attempted to produce.

“The AFS cells can also produce mature cells that meet tests of function, which suggests their therapeutic value.”

These tests included implanting neural cells from AFS cells into mice that had a degenerative brain disease. The cells grew and “re-populated” the diseased areas. Bone cells produced from AFS cells were successfully used to grow bony tissue in mice. Liver cells were able to secrete urea, which the liver produces from ammonia.

Stem cells can generate a wide range of mature cells. These can replace damaged cells in a human body. This is why scientists are so keen to study stem cells.

They should be able to treat a wide variety of very serious diseases and conditions. These include spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

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