Signs of Life

Jan 7, 2007 11:47pm

Might there be a way around that titanic debate over where to get stem cells? Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University, a veteran of the stem-cell research wars, heads a team that reports they’ve isolated stem cells from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women.  They may not turn out to be "pluripotent"–able to turn into any specialized cell in the way it’s believed embryonic stem cells can–but the key is that no embryos were destroyed to get them.  More HERE from Wake Forest’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Atala came there from Harvard Med School a few years ago. The abstract of their paper, in NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, says the cells are "broadly multipotent"–probably capable of turning into many kinds of specialized body tissue, though perhaps not as easily as embryonic stem cells.  Still, they sound more versatile than adult stem cells, which have been used in some experiments. A few lines from the NATURE release: "AFS [short for Amniotic Fluid-derived Stem] cells share properties of both embryonic and adult stem cells and may represent a developmental intermediate between these two types of stem cell. When cultured under the right conditions, AFS cells can be differentiated towards cell types such as fat, bone, muscle, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells. Once the methods for culturing and differentiating AFS cells have been optimized, the cells may be useful in therapies designed to regenerate damaged organs and tissues." More HERE. (AP photo)

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