Amniotic epithelial cells

Some stem cells extracted from the placenta are called amniotic epithelial cells. These cells may become useful in fighting diseases and disorders of the nervous system while avoiding the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells.

In harvesting embryonic stem cells, a human embryo is destroyed. Many pro-life individuals associate this act with abortion and consider it immoral. As the placenta is commonly discarded after birth, the ability to harvest stem cells from these non-controversial sources may come to represent a major innovation in stem cell research.

Amniotic stem cells, unlike embryonic stem cells, have failed to show a propensity for developing into teratomas and other cancer-like tumors upon injection into living tissue. Another potential benefit of using amniotic stem cells over those obtained from embryos is that they side-step ethical concerns among pro-life activists by obtaining pluripotent lines of undifferentiated cells without harm to a fetus or destruction of an embryo.

Artificial heart valves, working tracheas, as well as muscle, fat, bone, heart, neural and liver cells have all been engineered through use of amniotic stem cells. Tissues obtained from amniotic cell lines show enormous promise for patients suffering from congenital diseases/malformations of the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and cerebral tissue. Cell lines obtained from parents for specific use in their own children would avoid immune system rejection as cell types would already be fully compatible (as opposed to using embryonic stem cells which can potentially threaten to immuno-compromise their receipients).

References

* [http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05217/549236.stm News article]
* [http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00344708 US Government info about a related clinical trial]


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