Monday, January 08, 2007

Stem cells found in amniotic fluid

All the arguments that we've had over the years on this subject and now the scientist may have come up with a way to circumvent the process and use another source, one that doesn't mean the destruction of life. Can we put this issue to rest now?

Stem cells nearly as powerful as embryonic stem cells can be found in the amniotic fluid that protects babies in the womb, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday.

They used them to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory and said they believe the placenta and amniotic fluid can provide one more source of the valued cells, which scientists hope will someday transform medicine.

They would also provide a non-controversial source of the cells, which are found with difficulty throughout the body and in days-old embryos.

Embryonic cells are considered the most malleable of the various types of stem cells, but these amniotic fluid-derived cells are a close second, said Dr. Anthony Atala, of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who led the study.


"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," Atala said.

"We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

They used discarded samples from amniocentesis, a test used to check fetuses for birth defects.


Like embryonic stem cells, they appear to thrive in lab dishes for years, while normal cells, called somatic cells, die after a time.

"They are easier to grow than human embryonic stem cells," Atala added in a telephone interview. And, unlike embryonic stem cells, they do not form a type of benign tumor called a teratoma, he said.

Atala said a bank with 100,000 specimens of the amniotic stem cells theoretically could supply 99 percent of the U.S. population with perfect genetic matches for transplants.

My only concern is that they don't force pregnant women to have an amniocenteses since there is a risk to the baby.