The potential of amniotic fluid stem cells (UCL)

Uploaded by UCLTV on 29.09.2011

Shall we have a look at your baby?
- You're 27 weeks now, aren't you? - Yeah. - Okay.
Oh, that's a nice one, isn't it? That's always good, isn't it?
Birth defects represent
one of
the major
causes of morbidity and mortality in children.
There's about three
in every 100 babies
which are born with a major birth defect.
We are faced many times with a situation
in which
we don't know what to do for these babies.
- It's a girl. - It's a girl.
I collaborate with Paolo de Coppi. I look after the mums while they're pregnant.
Paolo visits the Fetal Medicine Unit, and he sees the mums if the baby
has an abnormality because he looks after the baby when they're born.
And we're trying to develop
treatments using stem cells in the amniotic fluid around the baby.
Stem cells have represented a major breakthrough
because it's the possibility of growing cells outside the body
to make a repair
to the children once the cells
have been built
in the laboratory.
So what we have developed in the last few years and this has been
initially the work we have done
with Antony Atala
at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine and is the
possibility of deriving
stem cell from the amniotic fluid.
These are not embryonic stem cells
but are neither
adult stem cells. They have characteristics that are in between the two cell types,
and for that, they present a big advantage for therapy.
These cells would represent an ideal source
for building organ and tissue that are missing in the foetus.
And this is because we can predict and diagnose very accurately these diseases
before the foetus is born.
Once this diagnosis is made, however,
we have about 20 weeks
of gestation
in which we can plan
the engineered organ to be built
outside of the baby,
that then can be eventually implanted
once the baby is born.
So we can correct
that defect at birth
his own cells.
Here is where we do receive the samples from Anna's.
Once the cells are isolated from the amniotic fluid, they can be easily expanded
in this incubator
and eventually engineered in a three-dimensional structure that can mimic the organs
that the baby is missing.
These organs can be expanded and grown
in these bioreactors.
We haven't got any treatments that will actually work yet.
But we're working on this whole area.
For instance, the mum that we scanned earlier on has got a completely healthy, normal baby
as far as I can tell on the scan.
We're not looking to treat anybody right now. But we are trying to develop new
treatments which will
improve already existing treatments or to develop completely new therapies,
using the stem cells that are in the amniotic fluid.
Another situation in which we can intervene
even before birth - we can use the same cells
to treat the foetus.
So if we know that the foetus has some
malformation that can be corrected
before birth,
we can use his own cells to,
for treatment.
So we can culture his or her cells
outside the womb and expand them
and eventually correct,
for example, the gene that
is altered or missing,
using gene therapy technique.
And we can inject back the cells
into the foetus
before birth.
And so
somehow improving his option of life
once the baby is born.