Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest University, USA speaks to Reshma Patil on the recent promising discovery of stem cells from the watery fluid surrounding unborn babies.
Are stem cells in the womb's amniotic fluid a surprise discovery?
We purposefully looked for a source of stem cells in the fluid and the placenta. We found the cells seven years ago, and have been working with them since then.
What is the promise of therapeutic treatments from these stem cells?
We currently have directed the cells to become numerous cell lineages, including bone, muscle, fat, liver, nerve and cells that line the blood vessels. However, these studies are still in an early stage of development.
How do these stem cells compare to stem cells from embryos, bone marrow or cord blood?
The cells double in number, every 36 hours. They have the ability to be directed into multiple cell types, like embryonic cells. The cells can be preserved for self use and do not form tumours, like bone marrow and cord blood cells.
And the cells come from a plentiful resource, since they can be isolated from the afterbirth, also called the placenta.
Scientists are already estimating that therapies from these cells will arise before they are available from embryonic stem cells.
Further research needs to be done to determine which cells will be best for any particular clinical indication.
What do you think of stem cell research underway in India?
There are many researchers doing excellent stem cell research in India, and further progress is being made daily.