Alternative stem cell source confirmed by researchers at Harvard and Wake Forest
Researchers at Harvard University and Wake Forest University reported that amniotic fluid donated by a number of pregnant women is a plentiful source of stem cells. The researchers were able to extract the fluid without any harm to either mother or child. CNN reports:
Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.
They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.
“Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, head of Wake Forest’s regenerative medicine institute and senior researcher on the project.
However, the scientists noted they still don’t know exactly how many different cell types can be made from the stem cells found in amniotic fluid. They also said that even preliminary tests in patients are years away.
Still, Atala said the research reported in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology expands far beyond similar work discussed at a heart research conference in November.
The timing of this scientific report could, perhaps, not be better. In December, a group of scientists discussed potential techniques that could produce stem cells from unfertilized human ova (read story here). In two weeks, thousands of pro-lifers will gather in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. With the promise of these scientific findings and the symbolic force of the March, those Democrats who predicted a Congressional initiative to push embryonic stem cell research will be faced with more questions on their motives and more pressure to consider alternative options for stem cell research in order to avoid the religious, ethical and political controversies that the creation and destruction of human embryos rightly and inevitably bring.
If you cannot march or protest, please pray.
CNN has a follow-up story. Dr. George Daley, the chief scientist at Advanced Cell Technology, characterized the findings as “a giant step forward for stem cell research.” Scientists remain hopeful, but balanced.