Versatile stem cells found in amniotic fluid

A team of scientists has discovered a new category of stem cells that can be found in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women that has demonstrated a great deal of versatility in morphing into different types of stem cells that could be used in new therapies. The researchers used these cells to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the lab. These new stem cells may well help advance the debate that has long existed between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells have been viewed as stable but limited in their ability to change into different tissue types. Embryonic stem cells can turn into virtually any tissue type but have been notably less stable. Scientists now say that there is no clear dichotomy between the two, noting that there are instead a range of stem cells across a full spectrum running from highly versatile to virtually inflexible. That raises the prospect that the full range of stem cells will be studied to match the right stem cell for each disease. It also raises the prospect that people may begin to store amniotic fluid to create a new generation of genetically-matched treatments. Pro-life advocates, who have backed controversial restrictions on research involving embryonic stem cells, were quick to herald the news, noting that the use of stem cells drawn from amniotic fluid. Researchers in the field say they're interested in further studying all classifications of stem cells.

"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," said Anthony Atala, M.D., senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

- check out this press release for details
- here's the report from The Washington Post

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