Stem cells are cells in the body that are undifferentiated but have the capacity to develop onto specialized cells in order to perform a specific function. Under certain conditions they can be induced to differentiate into organ specific cells capable of a specific function. In some organs such as the gut, stems cells regularly divide in order to repair and replace damaged tissue. In other organs such as the pancreas, stem cells will only divide under special conditions.
Stem cell research offers the hope of alleviating a wide range of human disease by harnessing the capacity of stem cells for differentiating into a variety of cell types. These can then be introduced into the body as a potential cure. Clinical scientists are currently researching the possibility that stem cells can be produced to secrete insulin and therefore provide a potential cure for diabetes.