Stem cells are cells, for which a subsequent function in the organism has yet to be established. On the one hand, they are capable of multiplication and the production of additional stem cells and on the other, can develop into specialised cells for specific organs (e.g. liver, muscle or nerve cells). Stem cells therefore represent the basis for the ongoing regeneration of our tissues, organs, blood and immunological system. Conversely, normal body cells can only form cells of the same type. However, it should be added that only very early stem cells from a developing embryo (embryonic stem cells) are genuine all-rounders.
By contrast, adult and foetal stem cells, to which the stem cells from the umbilical cord blood also belong, only possess a limited differentiation potential (multipotential). Umbilical cord blood is especially rich in young blood-forming (= haematopoietic) stem cells. These are able to mature into every type of blood cell and are therefore of major significance in the treatment of disorders of the blood-forming system, e.g. leukaemia.