by Steven Ertelt
August 8, 2005
Pittsburgh, PA (LifeNews.com) — Adult stem cell research has provided numerous sources of alternatives to using embryonic stem cells, but scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say they have discovered that a type of cell — called an amniotic epithelial cell — in the human placenta bears a close resemblance to a human embryonic stem cell in its ability to develop into different tissues.
The researchers provide an account of their discovery in a paper published online on Thursday in Stem Cells Express.
Stephen Strom and Yoshio Miki, professors at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology explain that amniotic epithelial cells comprise the thin membrane known as the amnion or birth sac surrounding the unborn child. They can be obtained from placentas usually discarded after childbirth.
Strom said the cells obtained from the placentas could be more useful than embryonic stem cells and would not cause the same tumors associated with patient rejection of embryonic stem cells.
"We think it would be easier to get these to the clinic than [embryonic stem] cells," Strom said.
These cells might be a "noncontroversial alternative" to embryonic stem cell research, the scientists say, because embryonic research requires the destruction of human life to obtain the cells.
"This is an exciting report," David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the conservative Family Research Council, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette newspaper.
The Pittsburgh-based biotechnology company Stemnion licensed the patent rights from the university and plans to use amniotic epithelial cells to treat cirrhosis and diabetes