An efficient method to collect amniotic fluid rich in stem cells during caesarean sections has been developed by scientists in Sweden.
Amniotic fluid is the protective liquid that surrounds a fetus, and is normally discarded as medical waste. Researchers at Lund University used a specially designed device to collect large amounts of the fluid during caesarean sections, tapping into a very large source of stem cells.
'We showed that using our device, we can collect up to a litre of amniotic fluid at full-term caesarean deliveries. The collection added on average 90 seconds to the operation, and was safe for both mother and child,' said Dr Andreas Herbst a lead clinician and senior author of the study.
The collection device, made by 3D printing bio-inert plastics, forms a seal with the fetal cavity, allowing safe and gentle collection of amniotic fluid. Researchers collected on average about 400 millilitres of amniotic fluid per caesarean, compared with about 10 to 20 ml from previous studies. Researchers can then filter and purify the fluid to harvest specialised mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs.
These stem cells can differentiate into various cell types and have demonstrated therapeutic potential for immune and inflammatory-mediated disorders, such as arthritis. MSCs can be obtained from many adult and neonatal sources, such as the bone marrow, but are difficult to harvest.
'Full term amniotic fluid, being an easily obtainable and abundant tissue source, may be the solution for MSC-based cell therapy and regenerative medicine applications,' said Dr Niels-Bjarne Woods, another study author.
The researchers found that the amniotic fluid MSCs multiplied quickly compared with those from other sources. They then successfully converted the purified amniotic fluid MSCs into 'pluripotent stem cells', which can potentially give rise to any cell in the body.
Being able to collect, select and cultivate these stem cells 'could be transformative for the stem cell field', said Dr Marcus Larsson, a clinician and co-author. 'The obvious next step would be to evaluate these cells further in the laboratory and, if successful, in disease models.'
Based on the new research, the inventors and Lund University Innovation Systems have formed a company, Longboat Explorers AB. The research was published in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.