Possible Alternative in the Stem Cell Debate

Amniotic fluid-derived stem cells may offer a potential alternative to embryonic stem cells for new therapies.

The amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells work of Dr. Anthony Atala, Director, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, offers a potential alternative to embryonic stem cells for new therapies.

Dr. Atala announced in January 2007 that AFS cells are being used in stem cell research. These cells have been used to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve, and liver cells and to help repair and grow organs in the laboratory.

AFS cells are readily available and can be grown in large quantities. These cells are harvested from backup amniotic fluid specimens obtained for amniocentesis, a procedure that examines cells in this fluid for prenatal diagnosis of certain genetic disorders. They can also be isolated from placenta and other membranes that are expelled after delivery. Because these cells typically double every 36 hours, it is easy to create sufficient supplies for therapeutic procedures. Dr. Atala estimates that 100,000 donors would create a sufficiently diverse stem cell bank that could supply 99 percent of the US population with perfect genetic matches for transplantation.

Representative Phil Gingrey, R-GA, recently toured the research laboratories at Wake Forest with Dr. Atala and his staff. Following that trip, Rep. Gingrey said, “We’ve got now a better way to conduct stem-cell research. Let’s be willing to adapt and adjust so that everybody is happy.” Senator Richard Burr, R-NC, recently introduced legislation to create a network of banks to store amniotic and placentary cells.

In the 21st century, life-saving decisions may very well include the use of stem cells. Lessening the gap between scientists and legislators and religious leaders is challenging. The potential uses of AFS cells helps to meet this challenge.

Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Read more on the stem cell debate…

Catholic Online (04/24/07)

Journal Now (04/17/07)

Exduco (03/24/07)

Journal Now (03/23/07)

Nature Biotechnology (01/07/07) Abstract