The potential of the use of stem cells within regenerative medicine is constantly expanding – from treating cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. However, procuring the stem cells in a large enough number can present difficulties.
Existing methods for extracting stem cells come with their own difficulties attached. Mining stem cells from bone marrow can be invasive and painful, human embryonic cultivation is often fraught with controversy, whilst stem cells from umbilical cord blood often produce a low yield.
Amniotic fluid, the protective nutrient-rich liquid cushioning a growing fetus, contains a large quantity of stem cells.
Now scientists from Lund University in Sweden have developed a method for safely extracting a large amount of stem cells during the delivery of a baby by caesarean section.
The process involves using a device, which is 3D printed out of bio-inert plastics, to form a seal within the fetal cavity. This allows surgeons to safely extract the fluid, which would usually be treated as medical waste. The liquid is then run through a specialised filter, cell strainer and centrifuge to isolate Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). Which are then grown in culture. The whole process is no more invasive than the process is already, and causes no harm to the mother or baby.
“We showed that using our device, we can collect up to a litre of amniotic fluid at full-term caesarean deliveries,” says Andreas Herbst, corresponding author of the study. “The collection added on average 90 seconds to the operation, and was safe for both mother and child.”
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs)
MSCs are multipotent stromal cells which means that they can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including: bone cells, cartilage cells, muscle cells and fat cells.
Researchers at the Lund University also found that MSCs can then be converted into a state similar to that of embryonic stem cells, which would allow them to transform into any cell type in the body.
“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 newborn-MSC’s can be provided by utilizing this waste material.”
said Marcus Larsson, corresponding author of the study.