Stem cells from amniotic fluid have been used to create bone cells, blood vessel cells, nerves cells and liver cells in the lab, according to scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, USA.

You can read about this new breakthrough in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Team leader, Dr. Anthony Atala, said "Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well. 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. We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

These new sourced stem cells are called AFS (Amniotic Fluid Derived Stem) cells. They could be an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and adult ones.

Dr. Atala and team started looking into amniotic fluid as a source of stem cells seven years ago. He said it took that long to verify they had a true stem cell. "These cells are capable of extensive self-renewal, a defining property of stem cells. They also can be used to produce a broad range of cells that may be valuable for therapy," said Atala.

AFS cells can be found from plentiful supplies of amniotic fluid from the many procedures that examine cells for prenatal diagnosis of some genetic disorders - the procedure is called amniocentesis. Childbirth is also a source of amniotic fluid. According to Atlala, 100,000 specimens could supply 99% of the USA population's needs for perfect matches for transplants. Getting 100,000 specimens is possible.

AFS cells have many advantages:

-- They are easily obtainable

-- As they double every 36 hours they may be grown in large quantities

-- 'Feeders' are not needed to guide them

-- They do not produce tumors

-- Specialized cells generated from AFS cells include all 3 types of cells that exist in the developing embryo - ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm

-- As with embryonic stem cells, AFS cells have the potential of generating every type of adult cell

Atala added that the full range of cells that AFS cells can eventually create remains to be determined. He said his team have managed to produce every cell type they have attempted to, so far.

"Isolation of amniotic stem cell lines with potential for therapy"
Paolo De Coppi, Georg Bartsch Jr, M Minhaj Siddiqui, Tao Xu, Cesar C Santos, Laura Perin, Gustavo Mostoslavsky, Angéline C Serre, Evan Y Snyder, James J Yoo, Mark E Furth, Shay Soker & Anthony Atala
Nature Biotechnology
Published online: 7 January 2007; | doi:10.1038/nbt1274
Click here to view abstract online

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