Stem Cells Found in Amniotic Fluid
January 18, 2007 -- Scientists at Wake Forest and Harvard universities have isolated stem cells in human amniotic fluid. In the future, these cells might be used in the treatment of diseases like diabetes, leukemia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. Their findings were reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The cells were isolated using discarded samples from amniocentesis, a prenatal exam used to test for birth defects. Amniotic stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, can be grown in the laboratory and are less susceptible to tumors. Since these all-purpose cells can be coaxed into becoming more specialized cells such as muscle, bone, and other tissues, scientists hope that they will be useful in a wide variety of medical applications.
Amniotic stem cells are similar to embryonic stem cells in their range of adaptability. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can change into any kind of human cell. Amniotic stem cells are multipotent; they can change into many but not all types of human cells.
Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine says that although stem cell research is on the cutting edge of biological science today, it is still in its infancy, and an enormous amount of basic research remains to be done before it can result in medical treatments. The report also cautions that the application of stem cell research to therapies for human disease will require much more knowledge about the biological properties of all types of stem cells.