New Technique Allows Stem Cell Harvesting from Amniotic Fluid

New Technique Allows Stem Cell Harvesting from Amniotic Fluid

Stem cell harvesting from amniotic fluid could allow large numbers of stem cells to be easily obtained for use in the treatment of diseases and medical research.

When Caesarean deliveries are performed, amniotic fluid is discarded as medical waste, yet previous studies have suggested amniotic fluid could be a rich source of stem cells and other biological materials that could be valuable for use in cell therapy and medical research.

Each year, millions of Caesarian section deliveries are performed, so the potential for harvesting vast quantities of cells and bioactive materials is considerable. Provided the harvesting and processing of amniotic fluid is relatively easy to perform and inexpensive, this untapped source of biological material could be a virtual gold mine for biomedical scientists.

Now, a team of researchers at Sweden’s Lund University have developed a new multi-stage technique for collecting amniotic fluid and processing it to obtain large numbers of cells. Associate Professor at Lund University, Andreas Herbst explained that the researchers have developed a device that can collect up to a liter of amniotic fluid during a full-term Caesarean section. The collection method is safe, does not harm either the mother or baby, and the process can be completed in just 90 seconds.

The device was 3D printed from inert plastics that can be sterilized to prevent infections. The device forms a seal with the fetal cavity allowing amniotic fluid to be easily harvested, while the technique for processing the fluid has allowed the researchers to obtain and purify relatively large quantities of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs).

MSCs are used in the treatment of many diseases, but obtaining sufficient quantities of the cells is problematic, which limits the potential of these therapies for widespread use in medicine. MSCs are currently harvested using other techniques, including obtaining them from bone marrow, which is an invasive and costly procedure.

Stem cell harvesting from amniotic fluid could be a viable solution to the problem, allowing the cells to be used much more broadly for the treatment of diseases and in a wide range of therapies. Stem cell harvesting from amniotic fluid does not require a separate procedure. It could be routinely performed on all planned Caesarian sections.

In addition to obtaining the MSCs, the researchers also demonstrated that the MSCs can be converted into a state similar to embryonic stem cells, allowing the cells to differentiate into any cell type in the body.

Dr. Marcus Larsson, corresponding author of the study, said, “The combination of this novel device and the coupled cellular selection and cultivation methods could be transformative for the stem cell field, as large quantities of neonatal MSC’s can be provided by utilizing this waste material.”

Now that the technique for harvesting and purifying neonatal MSCs has been shown to be easy and cost effective, it is hoped that more research groups will start working with the cells.

The study and techniques are detailed in the paper Term amniotic fluid: an unexploited reserve of mesenchymal stromal cells for reprogramming and potential cell therapy applications was recently published in the journal, Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

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