Amniotic Stem cells
Amniotic fluid is the composition that is present in the baby sac surrounding the fetus. The amniotic stem cells constitute amniotic fluid plus the amniotic membrane.
How are they different from others?
Amniotic stem cells are different from embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are ‘Pluripotent’ meaning the stem cells generate into different kinds of cells, whereas Amniotic stem cells are ‘multipotent’, meaning the cells differentiate into certain cell types.
Benefits of Amniotic Stem Cells
The fact that Amniotic stem cells are ‘Multipotent’ makes the benefits of these stem cells limitless.
The amniotic stem cells present in the Amniotic fluid have the potential to go through tissue engineering and stem cell therapy which can be an answer to numerous human disorders.
Human Amniotic fluid cells are also utilized as a diagnostic tool to determine genetic anomalies during prenatal diagnosis.
How are Amniotic Stem Cells harvested?
The process of collecting the amniotic stem cells is termed as harvesting. Soon after the baby is born, blood is collected from the umbilical cord. These cells are extracted by a process called Amniocentesis – a process that is carried out without causing damage to the embryos if done before childbirth. A machine separates and collects stem cells from the blood. The obtained stem cells are frozen and stored in stem cell banks for future use. The amniotic membrane and fluid contain stem cells and growth factors, the membrane is processed.
In the case of IVF, the scientists remove the inner cell mass and place these cells into a specialized culture medium. The stem cells grown can be differentiated into different lineages including cardiomyocytes, blood-forming precursor cells or neural cells. In the second method, amniotic fluid stem cells are extracted from 5-7 week old embryo during amniocentesis and cultured. These embryonic stem cells have the potential to differentiate into all three embryonic germ layers without forming tumors.
The human embryonic stem cell lines are immensely difficult to grow in culture; the cells need a specialized medium to grow which is standardized. These cells are preserved in stem cells banks and are used in regenerative medicine to produce certain types of tissues to fix disorders.
The amniotic fluid stem cells are reprogrammed to differentiate into different types of cells. The uses of stem cells for fixing disorders are however having ethical issues. The amniotic fluid stem cells are extracted from some pregnant women who choose to determine the chromosomal attributes of the fetus, and the stem cells from the fluid are preserved so that these cells can be injected to the fetus in case of any abnormalities while in the womb or at a later stage.
This would not cause a problem as the stem cells will have the exact same genetic mapping as that of the fetus or the baby. The science behind this is undergoing a lot of research and experimentation and the treatment has the potential to many new breakthroughs in regenerative medicine. The amniotic fluid stem cells also have the capability to maintain the same chromosomal count even after prolonged period in the culture.