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Scientists discover new, readily available source of stem cells

Scientists have discovered a new source of stems cells and have used them to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory. The first report showing the isolation of broad potential stem cells from the amniotic fluid that surrounds developing embryos was published today in Nature Biotechnology.

"Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well," said Anthony Atala, M.D., senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Atala announced the breakthrough with colleagues from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

"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 Atala. "We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

Atala and colleagues discovered a small number of stem cells in amniotic fluid ? estimated at 1 percent ?that can give rise to many of the specialized cell types found in the human body. The scientists believe the newly discovered stem cells, which they have named amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells, may represent an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. They have markers consistent with both cell types.

"It took this long to verify that we had a true stem cell," said Atala, who began the work seven years ago. "These cells are capable of extensive self-renewal, a defining property of stem cells. They also can be used to produce a broad range of cells that may be valuable for therapy."

An advantage of the AFS cells for potential medical applications is their ready availability. The report describes how the cells were harvested from backup amniotic fluid spec
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Source:Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center


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