"We have many problems with our current methods of stem cell therapy, like those taken from bone marrow. They may be rejected by the recipient and/or have limited potential to generate new tissue. Now we've found a possible new way to overcome these difficulties by using cells from menstrual blood," said Dr. Xiaolong Meng of the Bio-Communications Research Institute in Wichita, Kansas.
Cells collected from the menstrual blood of women include types which can be cultured in the laboratory, which replicate almost 70 times in a very rapid time span. This replication rate is far faster than cells, which are currently used, taken from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow.
Meng's study has found that cells that thicken the womb wall during a woman's menstrual cycle contain a newly discovered type of stem cell, which might be used in the treatment of damaged and/or old womb tissue.
The cells are so unique in their ability to develop into at least nine different cells, including heart, liver and lung, that researchers call Endometrial Regenerative Cells (ERC). Not only do ERC replicate at a phenomenal rate of almost every 20 hours, but they also they produce unique growth factors at a rate of almost 100,000 greater than cells from umbilical cord blood.
A mere 5ml of menstrual blood collected from a healthy woman provided enough cells which after two weeks of culture provided beating heart cells.
The researchers suggest that the cells could be cultured at a large scale, thereby providing an alternative to the current methods of using bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, which itself poses threats of rejection.
The study is published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.