The researchers led by Assistant Professor Katalin Polgar found when compared to cultured adult skin cells, the amniotic fluid skin cells formed stem cell colonies in about half the time and yielded nearly a 200 percent increase in number.
"There remains today a need in stem cell research for an easily reprogrammable cell type," Polgar said. "Our study shows that reprogramming of cultured, terminally differentiated amniotic fluid cells results in pluripotent stem cells that are identical to human embryonic stem cells, and that it is much easier, faster and more efficient than reprogramming neonatal and adult cells."
Amniotic fluid skin cells can be safely obtained from pregnant women undergoing amniocentesis at about 15 weeks of pregnancy as part of a diagnostic workup for chromosome aberrations and other genetic diseases, the researchers said. About 99 percent of cells found in amniotic fluid are terminally differentiated cells mostly from fetal skin, which are shed into the amniotic fluid as a fetus develops.
Such cells, they said, could become an important source for generating stem cells for basic research and future therapies.
The study appears in the ahead-of-print online edition of the journal Cellular Reprogramming (formerly Cloning and Stem Cells),