Stem Cells from Amniotic Fluid
Cells collected during pregnancy could aid research and therapy
Source: “Isolation of Amniotic Stem Cell Lines with Potential for Therapy”
Paolo De Coppi et al.
Nature Biotechnology 25(1): 100-106
Results: Scientists have isolated stem cells from amniotic fluid and found that they appear to have properties similar to those of embryonic stem cells. The cells grew efficiently in the lab, doubling in number every 36 hours, and were able to develop into precursors of multiple tissue types, including brain tissue.
Why it matters: Unlike embryonic stem cells, cells routinely discarded during amniocentesis could be harvested without destroying human embryos, avoiding the ethical concerns that have slowed stem cell research. And unlike most adult stem cells, those derived from amniotic fluid appear to grow efficiently and can differentiate into multiple cell types, making them suitable for therapeutic and research uses.
Methods: The researchers, led by Anthony Atala at Wake Forest, collected samples of amniotic fluid and isolated cells that expressed a molecule unique to stem cells. They then grew the cells under different environmental and chemical conditions to trigger their differentiation into different cell types.
Next steps: The researchers plan to try to develop the cells for use in treating diseases. They’ll try to make nerves for Parkinson’s patients, for instance, or insulin-secreting cells for people with diabetes.