Researchers are celebrating a promising new source for mesenchymal stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that are usually harvested from bone marrow. Because of their availability and potential to differentiate into many different cell types including bone, tissue, muscle, and skin, mesenchymal stem cells have become the go-to source for stem cell therapy for a wide range of ailments. Most often mesenchymal stem cells have been harvested from bone marrow dating back to the early 70’s when oncologists discovered the influence of stem cells on leukemia patients. Since then, the medical community has made amazing advancements using the power of stem cells on chronic conditions, autoimmune diseases, and orthopedic disorders. As the demand for viable mesenchymal stem cells increases, scientists are seeking out new and effective ways the cells can be isolated and harvested for use. One of the recently discovered sources for these cells was once considered “medical waste” by most medical facilities.
“[A]mniotic fluid may soon become a go-to source for regenerative cells. “
Amniotic fluid creates a protective cushion around a fetus in the womb. The fluid contains hormones and nutrients the fetus needs for development. Amniotic fluid helps to regulate temperature and keeps the fetus at optimal warmth. The protective fluid facilitates lung and digestive function and also protects against infection by providing antibodies. Amniotic fluid also contains a wealth of mesenchymal stem cells, and with the aid of a new collection device from Lund University researchers in Sweden, amniotic fluid may soon become a go-to source for regenerative cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent which means they can differentiate into many different cell types including tissue, tendon, bone, ligament, and cartilage. Prior to this development, mesenchymal stem cells in amniotic fluid were difficult to collect because during the delivery of the baby the material can become contaminated. In addition to this, the collection method needed to be effective while observing the safety of both mother and baby. With this new device and a multi-step method, the fluid can be collected in larger quantities, so more viable mesenchymal stem cells are available.
Cesarean sections are quite common, in fact about 1 in 3 babies in the US are delivered by C-section creating an abundance of amniotic fluid available. Current sources for mesenchymal stem cells are limited, and although the increase of autologous stem cell therapies has reduced need for stem cell donors, researchers still need a viable source for mesenchymal stem cells for research and treatment.
This new device creates an opportunity to collect about one liter of amniotic fluid at the time of birth with minimal impact on the mother and baby. The process takes about 90 seconds and can be added easily to the delivery process without compromising the surgery. The device is made of bioinert plastics and was created using 3-D printing technology. During the collection, the device creates a seal that protects the integrity of the amniotic fluid and collects it gently and keeps it free from contamination from blood and other biomaterials.
We know that stem cells are revolutionizing the way we treat a countless number of conditions and ailments and as demand grows, the need for collection sources increases as well. This development has repurposed this medical waste into a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells that can be collected ethically and safely.
Now that amniotic fluid can be collected for further use, the goal going forward will be to encourage the use of the device as common practice during cesarean deliveries. As larger amounts of amniotic fluid provide more mesenchymal stem cells for use, stem cell therapy treatment facilities can perform more treatments benefiting any genetically matched patients. We have yet to discover the complete capability of mesenchymal stem cells and their therapeutic uses, and this development increases the opportunity for increased production and study.
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