More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Amniotic fluid could heal newborn babies

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991413

10:36   11  October  01
Eugenie Samuel, Boston
 
A common test of an unborn baby's health could also provide a treatment for some birth defects. The cells in the amniotic fluid - which is often sampled for genetic testing - can be grown into the tissue needed to patch up the defects.

One in 5000 babies is born with a "body wall defect", such as a hole in the abdomen or chest. Surgeons can correct it if they have enough tissue, but babies are often too small for a graft to be taken from elsewhere on their bodies.

One solution is to take cells from an unborn baby and grow tissue for later surgery (New Scientist, 26 July 1997, p 13). But taking the cells can trigger a miscarriage.

Now it turns out you do not need to touch the fetus directly at all. Dario Fauza and Amir Kaviani at the Children's Hospital in Boston have found early-stage embryonic cells floating in the amniotic fluid of a pregnant woman.

Scaffold and build

When they seeded a scaffold with the cells, they grew into connective tissue much faster than cells taken directly from a fetus, probably because they were younger, the pair told a meeting of the American College of Surgeons in New Orleans this week. "We don't know whether they're true stem cells, but they proliferate very quickly," says Fauza.

Doctors already take amniotic fluid 16 weeks into a pregnancy to look for genetic abnormalities - a common procedure called an amniocentesis. If scans suggests a baby might have defects, Fauza says, doctors could isolate cells from this fluid for later surgery. "This is elegant because many women have an amniocentesis."

"This sounds good to me because it's a nice, unproblematic source," says Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a tissue engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Fauza's team has used amniotic cells to repair lambs with defects in their body wall and is waiting to see how they fare. But in principle, he feels ready to use amniotic cells to heal a baby.
 

© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd