Embryonic stem cells come from a fetus or embryo, or from the blood within the umbilical cord. These cells can eventually develop into all of the various types of organs and tissue that combine to create a fetus -- in other words, they can create any cell in the human body. Their primary purpose is to facilitate growth and development.
In contrast, adult stem cells are found in organs all throughout the human body, and their primary purpose is maintenance. Adult stem cells can help heal and repair the body, including the heart, the lungs, the brain and bone marrow. While it was previously thought that adult stem cells could only replicate limited types of cells, newer research indicates that adult stem cells can probably generate any cell types. This ability to produce all kinds of cells is known as transdifferentiation or plasticity.
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