Something we can all agree on - New Stem Cell Source
The Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University has discovered a new source for stem cells - amniotic fluid obtained from amniocentesis. Broad potential stem cells isolated in amniotic fluid have been used to create muscle, bone, liver, nerve and other important cells. The hope is this will be an important option for tissue repair or growing engineered organs (see my post on organ harvesting from live donors and the potential for exploitation).
Multiple progenitor cell types from the developing embryo are found in amniotic fluid. These would be similar to embryonic stem cells, in that they are not yet differentiated, but without the ethical/political issues that have created roadblocks to treatment for many. Scientists at Wake Forest think these amniotic fluid-derived stem cells (AFS) may be an intermediate step between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Similar stem cells were harvested from placenta and other tissues after childbirth delivery. These cells grow quickly - doubling in 36 hours, and they do not produce tumors, a problem with some other types of stem cells.
With more than 4 million live births in the US each year, scientists are excited that this new potential resource could provide a bank of 100,00 specimens giving 99% of the population a perfect genetic match. In a previous post about Tiantan Puhua Stem Cell Center in Beijing, I reported that doctors in China were already using stem cell transplant therapy to treat Batten Disease. They are also treating Parkinson's, brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, mutiple sclerosis, ALS and other neurological conditions. Regenerative medicine - the potential to implant new cell that stimulate our bodies to grow new healthy cells where others have been damaged by disease or trauma - offers new hope and that's exciting.
Thank you Sam Blackman for use of photo.