It is a discovery that seems to good to be true and that which will lend much cheer to those who raise ethical concerns against stem cell research.
Stem cells are cells capable of regenerating into just about any type of cell that could develop into any type of tissue or organ. Hence their invaluable use in the research that is concerned with finding a cure for incurable diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and stroke among others, caused by permanent damage of cells, tissues or organs.
Till now stem cells have been harvested from created human embryos, which are then destroyed after use; a process referred to as 'cannibalism' by protestors.
So the discovery that stem cells can be derived from amniotic fluid, the fluid that surrounds the developing embryo, or the baby in the womb, is bound to be followed with bated breath.
A team of scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School of Medicine has come up with this so-called AFS (amniotic fluid derived) cells.
According to them it took seven years to study and research these cells and to find them equivalent to other stem cells sourced from fetuses.
The findings published in the journal Nature Biotechnology have shown these cells to appear phenotypically and genetically stable and to regenerate into bone, liver and nerve tissue, in mice.
Says Dr. Anthony Atala, senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, "It has been known for decades that both the placenta and amniotic fluid contain multiple progenitor cell types from the developing embryo, including fat, bone, and muscle. These cells are capable of extensive self-renewal, a defining property of stem cells. They also can be used to produce a broad range of cells that may be valuable for therapy."
The researchers discovered an amount of one percent of potential stem cells, in the amniotic fluid. The fluid used for the research was backup samples taken for amniocentesis, a prenatal test used for screening for genetic disorders.