New research released Sunday strongly suggests the success of a third category of stem cells that carry with them less political baggage. The two previously best-known sources for stem cells have been fetuses and adult tissues. The newly discovered stem cells are amniotic-fluid stem cells that reside in the placenta and the liquid around human fetuses in the mother’s womb.

The new cells are nearly as adaptable to multiply and change into many different cell types as the other strains. The potential is huge, using this technology body tissue can be renewed, or used to treat a range of diseases. They may also allow physicians and technicians to grow new organs in a laboratory for later transplantation.

Amniotic-fluid stem cells are harvested during amniocentesis and could be extracted from the placenta of every infant, since that is simply thrown away. This is good news to those who object to embryonic stem cell extraction, which brings an embryo a few days along in life and then results in its destruction as stem cells are taken. For adults, it means no more painful tissue extraction for stem cell harvesting.

One of the remarkable outcomes is that these new stem cells are likely appropriate for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and brain damage. Amniotic cells also do not form tumors Called “teratomas” that arise in some embryonic stem cells implanted in animals. In the future, it should be possible to bank amniotic stems cells as cord blood is frozen and bank today. Human trials are in the planning stages, although one Swiss lab has already been able to grow and raise human heart valves from the amniotic cells.

It is felt that 99% of the human population could be matched successfuly with amniotic stem cells. 


[Edited by Simon – Minor tweak for clarity]


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