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Stem Cell Transplant Glossary

 

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): 
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow that results when a blood stem cell called a “blast” becomes altered and undergoes abnormally rapid growth.  This means that white blood cell blasts accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.  Myeloid leukemia is cancer of the myeloblast cells in the blood.

Adult stem cells: 
Also known as somatic stem cells or tissue specific stem cells.  Found in both juveniles and adults, these stem cells are capable of dividing or self-renewing indefinitely and generate all the cell types of the organ from which they originate.

Auer rods: 
Long thin rods inside the myeloblast cells.  They are an indication that the patient has AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia. 

Biomarker:  
A protein that can latch onto the surface of a cell like a key in a lock.  If the structure on the outside of the cell matches then the biomarker attaches itself to the cell membrane.  Different cells have different structures on their membranes, so the presence of a biomarker helps in identifying a cell type or in isolating the cell type when trying to purify a culture. Cell sorting techniques are based on the presence of cellular biomarkers.

Biopsy:  
The process of removing a tissue sample for analysis or diagnosis usually in the form of a skin punch.

Biosafety cabinet:  
A cabinet that filters air to prevent biohazards from escaping or contamination of the culture from outside air.  If the cabinet has a higher safety rating, it can be used in more clinical settings so that a patient’s cells remain safe.

Biotech:  
Short for ‘biotechnology.’  The use of biological knowledge, microorganisms and biological processes in industrial or manufacturing processes.  Examples include synthetic hormones, bacteria to clean up oil spills, genetic engineering, as well as cell and tissue cultures.

Bone marrow:  
Most large bones have a soft, spongy tissue in the center that produce the white cells, red cells, and platelets of blood. Bone marrow is also home to a number of different adult stem cells.

Cell counter:  
A machine in which cells are routed one at a time through a capillary tube past a laser beam. The scattering of light from each cell is analyzed by sophisticated software giving a count of the likely distribution of different types of cells.

Chemotherapy:  
Treatment of cancer with various drugs that destroy cancer cells.  Many of these treatments have side effects that effect healthy cells, as well.

ClinMACS® machine:  
A cell sorting machine used by scientists to achieve pure cultures of a particular type of cell that is sorted according to the biomarker that binds to it.

Commercializing:  
Bringing a product or technology to market or making it commercially viable.

Conditioning:  
The second stage of a stem cell transplant where massive amounts of chemotherapy are administered to the patient to rid the body of the leukemic cells and the patient’s immune system and make room in the bone marrow for the new stem cells that will be administered. 

Cord blood:  
Blood that is collected from the placenta through the umbilical cord. Cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic, or blood, stem cells. The cord blood is taken and stored in special banks for future uses.

Culture plate:  
A flat, transparent dish capable of holding some sort of liquid (medium) on which cells are grown.

Differentiation:  
The ability of a cell to change from one type to another.  A stem cell can differentiate into other types of cells, such as a mesenchymal stem cell changing into an osteocyte, or bone cell.  The stem cell may go through a number of different steps from less specialized cells (precursor cells) to more specific tissue like skin or muscle.

 

Ectoderm:  
Set of cells in the developing embryo that give rise to the central nervous system, the lens of the eye, cranial and sensory, the ganglia and nerves, pigment cells, head connective tissues, the epidermis, hair, and mammary glands.

 

Endoderm:  
Set of cells in the developing embryo that give rise to the stomach, the colon, the liver, the pancreas, the urinary bladder, the lining of the urethra, the epithelial parts of trachea, the lungs, the pharynx, the thyroid, the parathyroid, and the intestines.

 

Epithelial Stem Cells:  
A multipotent stem cell found in skin that give rise to hair follicles, sweat glands, and skin cells.

Ficoll:  
Ficoll is a liquid that is used to separate the components of blood into its various components.

Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD):  
When new cells from a stem cell transplant begin to attack the cells of the patient’s body.

 

Granulocyte:  
A type of white blood cell filled with sacs of enzymes that digest other cells. 

 

Hematopoietic Stem Cell:  
A multipotent stem cell (can turn into several different types of blood cells) found in bone marrow or peripheral blood. It gives rise to all the types of blood cells: red blood cells, B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, natural killer cells, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and macrophages.

Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA):  
A type of protein that is found on the outer surfaces of cells that is made up of six antigens.  These antigens are molecules that help your body identify which cells belong to your body and which do not.  If the HLA doesn’t match up, the new immune system being given from the stem cell donor will identify the patient’s cells as not belonging and attack them. 

 

Incubator:  
A sealed box used to maintain constant temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels.  This is necessary so that the cells grow like they would in the body. 

 

Intestinal Stem Cell:  
A multipotent cell found in the intestine, giving rise to all types of cells in the gut such as enterocytes, goblet cells, paneth cells, and endocrine cells.

 

Leukemia:  
A cancer of the blood or bone marrow that results when a blood stem cell called a “blast” becomes altered and undergoes abnormally rapid growth.  This means that white blood cell blasts accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.  Symptoms of leukemia include;  fatigue, bruising and bleeding, pallor, discomfort from enlarged organs, and increased rates of infection, since the white blood cells are not functioning properly as immune cells.  

Liquid nitrogen:  
Nitrogen gas frozen into its liquid state, which is usually at 67 degrees Kelvin or -210 degrees Celsius.  Liquid nitrogen is a fairly inert substance and is used to freeze tissue and fluid samples quickly, preventing the damage that often occurs when living organisms and cells are frozen slowly.  Tissue and fluid samples can be kept for months or years since the super low temperature stops the tissue from aging.

 

Media (singular is medium):  
A liquid or gel designed to encourage the growth of cells in a culture. The media can contain different nutrients, enzymes or stimulants, depending on what it is designed to do.

 

Mesenchymal Stem Cell:  
A multipotent cell (can turn into cells found in the mesoderm) found in bone marrow, cord blood, peripheral blood, fat and fetal liver and lungs.  Its primary function is to give rise to a variety of cell types: bone cells (osteocytes), cartilage cells (chondrocytes), fat cells (adipocytes), and other kinds of connective tissue cells such as those in tendons and ligaments.

 

Mesoderm:  
Set of cells in the developing embryo that give rise to the skeletal muscle, the skeleton, the dermis of skin, connective tissue, the urogenital system, the heart, blood (lymph cells), and the spleen.

 

Multipotent:  
Stem cells that can give rise to several different types of cells, but the number is limited. 

Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells (MAPCs):  
Bone marrow-derived stem cells that can differentiate into tissue cells of all 3 germinal layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.  They are being used in many stem cell research projects to help patients with a variety of conditions.

Myeloblast:  
A unipotent stem cell that gives rise to white blood cells, including granulocytes, monocytes and platelets

 

Niches:  
Places in the body where adult stem cells can be found.  This microenvironment is a storage space for stem cells and will ultimately determine what the stem cell will become.  The niche contains stimulants that either instruct the stem cell to self-maintain or turn into various cells of the organ where the niche is located.

 

Neural Stem Cell:  
A multipotent cell found in the brain that gives rise to nerve cells (neurons) and two categories of glial cells - astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

Neutrophil:  
The most common type of white blood cell. They can ingest other cells and are the first immune cells to arrive at a site of infection.  Neutrophils are present in the bloodstream until signaled to a site of infection by chemical cues in the body, arriving at the site of infection within an hour.

 

Osteocyte:  
A mature bone cell.

 

Pipette:  
A handheld instrument with a narrow plastic or glass tube that is marked for measuring (graduated) and is used to transfer small amounts of liquids sometimes containing cells.

 

Pluripotent:  
Stem cells that can generate virtually every cell type but cannot form a total organism.

 

Precursor:  
Also known as a blast cell or simply blast, a precursor cell is a partially differentiated, usually unipotent cell (only turns into one type of cell) that has lost most or all of the stem cell potency.  It will give rise to a particular type of cell, such as a bone cell or a fat cell.

 

Self-renewal:  
A cell that is capable of dividing and making exact copies of itself.  Stem cells are capable of self renewal, while most other types of cells are not. 

 

Somatic stem cells:  
Also known as adult stem cells – are found in both juveniles and adults, these stem cells are capable of dividing or self-renewing indefinitely and generate all the cell types of the organ from which they originate.

 

Stem cell biologist:  
A scientist that works with stem cells.

 

Stem cell line:  
A group of stem cells that have the following two traits:

  1.  They divide and make exact copies of themselves.  This is called self-renewal.
  2. They can change into distinct precursors of all sorts of different cells.  This is called differentiation.
 

T cell:  
A type of white blood cell that has a receptor on the cell surface that recognizes other cells in the body as belonging or being foreign.  T cells are especially important in the defense against tumor cells and pathogenic organisms inside body cells.

Totipotent:  
Stem cells that can give rise to every type of cell in the body and can form an entire organism.  Embryonic stem cells are totipotent.

  Unipotent:  
Stem cells that generate one type of cell like bone or fat.


 
   

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