Stem cell research has always been the topic of hot debate. Stem cells are thought to hold the key to cures and treatments for some diseases, but sourcing stem cells have been a moral battle for years. According to this current study, donating amniotic fluid may be the key to stem cell research and the fact that the amniotic fluid was donated for research takes the moral question out of the equation. The morality of stem cell research is rooted in the fact that stem cells were previously only available from human embryos and harvesting cells from those embryos was not widely accepted.
Stem cells are extremely important to the development of treatments and cures for many diseases can be developed from stem cells. Stem cells are like a blank canvas. Researchers can create many different kinds of cells from stem cells. Current research into genetic diseases is investigating the use of stem cells for the treatment of diseases like cerebral palsy.
For the sake of research, the amniotic fluid stem cells (AFSCs) were only used if amniotic fluid was extracted for other reasons. There is a 1-percent risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis – the procedure used to extract amniotic fluid so researchers did not initiate the donation. If women were already having an amniocentesis done and they gave permission for the fluid to be used for other reasons other than testing, the researchers were able to access the donated fluid for study. AFSCs treated with valproic acid returned the cells to a basic, clean state that could be programmed to create a plethora of new cells. The valproic acid basically transforms the AFSCs into human embryonic stem cells.
According to researchers, donations from about 150 pregnant women would be enough to match about 40% of the world’s population.
Source: University College London. July 3, 2012.