Routinely discarded as medical waste, placental tissue could feasibly provide an abundant source of cells with the same potential to treat diseases and regenerate tissues as their more controversial counterparts, embryonic stem cells, suggests a University of Pittsburgh study to be published in the journal Stem Cells and available now as an early online publication in Stem Cells Express.
A part of the placenta called the amnion, or the outer membrane of the amniotic sac, is comprised of cells that have strikingly similar characteristics to embryonic stem cells, including the ability to express two key genes that give embryonic stem cells their unique capability for developing into any kind of specialized cell, the researchers report. And according to the results of their studies, these so-called amniotic epithelial cells could in fact be directed to form liver, pancreas, heart and nerve cells under the right laboratory conditions.
"If we could develop efficient methods that would allow amnion-derived cells to differentiate into specific cell types, then placentas would no longer be relegated to the trashcan. Instead, wed have a useful source of cells for transplantation and regenerative medicine," said senior author Stephen C. Strom, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a researcher at the universitys McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Lisa Rossi | EurekAlert!
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