New Source of Stem Cells

Stem cells from the amniotic fluid
are readily available; ©

“Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

“It has been known for decades that both the placenta and amniotic fluid contain multiple progenitor cell types from the developing embryo, including fat, bone, and muscle,” said Atala. “We asked the question, ‘Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?’ The answer is yes.”

Atala and colleagues discovered a small number of stem cells in amniotic fluid – estimated at one percent – that can give rise to many of the specialized cell types found in the human body. The scientists believe the newly discovered stem cells, which they have named amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells, may represent an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They have markers consistent with both cell types.

An advantage of the AFS cells for potential medical applications is their ready availability. The report describes how the cells were harvested from backup amniotic fluid specimens obtained for amniocentesis, a procedure that examines cells in this fluid for prenatal diagnosis of certain genetic disorders. Similar stem cells were isolated from “afterbirth,” the placenta and other membranes that are expelled after delivery.

In addition to being easily obtainable, the AFS cells can be grown in large quantities because they typically double every 36 hours. They also do not require guidance from other cells (termed “feeders”) and they do not produce tumours, which can occur with certain other types of stem cells.; Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center