Amniotic stem cells heal intestinal disorder that afflicts premature babies
A new study published in GUT (An International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology) has shown that amniotic fluid stem cells can reverse intestinal damage in rats caused by necrotising enterocolitis — an often fatal disorder that afflicts premature babies.
Paolo De Coppi had already proved that amniotic fluid could be reprogrammed in a similar way to how we reprogram embryonic stem cells, and without introducing potentially damaging genes to instigate the transformation (how adult cells are made pluripotent). Though not quite as versatile as the embryonic version, De Coppi showed that they could be converted into liver, bone and nerve cells.
What’s interesting about this latest study is that the stem cells calmed the intestinal inflammation, healed and reversed damage done to the gut far better than bone marrow stem cells (used in a rate control group), and in an unexpected way. After being injected, the cells travelled to the tiny villi that line the intestinal walls and absorb nutrients, where it then released an unknown substance that triggered progenitor cells to calm the inflammation and instigate tissue and villi regrowth. The team is unsure exactly how it released a growth factor to kick the progenitor cells into action, but it’s hoping further studies could clear this up — that knowledge could then be used to develop drugs that replicate the same action.
In the meantime, De Coppi says, “we hope that stem cells found in amniotic fluid will be used more widely in therapies and in research, particularly for the treatment of congenital malformations”.
Necrotising enterocolitis is common in premature babies, with inflammation rapidly leading to tissue death and a perforated intestine if antibiotics have no effect. At that point, an operation is the only option and these have a 70 percent survival rate due to related risks of surgery at such a young age, and can leave infants with a shortened intestine and trouble eating for the rest of their lives. This latest study gives hope for an injectable, non-invasive solution.
Stem cells have already been shown to have some incredible properties for regenerative medicine — most recently baboon embryonic stem cells were used to repair damaged arteries. However, due the ethical grey area embryonic experiments reside in, progress has inevitably been slower, with the first official human trials only recently beginning to take place. Stem cells derived from amniotic fluid have huge potential, but would mainly still rely on donors given the impracticalities of storing fluid from every birth. Nevertheless, according to estimates published in a 2005 study, just 150 donors would provide a match for 38 percent of the population.
De Coppi, who in 2010 made headlines when he built an 11-year-old boy a trachea replacement from his own bone marrow stem cells, is currently raising funding for his research into building rejection-free transplants from stem cells.
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- Robin Roberts Heals With Adult Stem Cells, Bone Marrow Transplant (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- STEM CELL THERAPY INCREASES SUCCESS RATE OF LIVER TRANSPLANTS (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)