Stem cells are pegged by many to be the wonder medicine of the 21st Century. However, a new discovery by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital may dramatically change how scientists view stem cells and tissue development.

The study, led by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa, suggests stem cells intentionally damage their own DNA.

The research shows stem cells will break their DNA and then repair it, in turn activating genes that help develop new tissues.

The discovery is the opposite of what scientists previously thought.

"I mean this is what science is all about, right? It's creating new knowledge; it's questioning old dogmas, old concepts, and moving the knowledge forward. And with regards to stem cells, hopefully getting us a little bit closer to clinical applications," said Dr. Lynn Megeney, who led the study.

The research was published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on Monday.