An innovative strategy for regenerating skeletal muscle
tissue using cells derived from the amniotic fluid is outlined in new research
published by scientists at the UCL Institute of Child Health.
The paper shows that damaged muscle tissues can be treated
with cells derived from the fluids which surround the fetus during development,
leading to satisfactory regeneration and muscle activity. The treatment
resulted in longer survival in mice affected by a muscle variant of spinal
muscular atrophy. This is the first time that regeneration of diseased muscle
tissue has been obtained using cells derived from amniotic fluid.
The research appears in the journal Stem Cells, is authored
by Dr Paolo de Coppi (UCL Institute of Child Health and surgeon at Great Ormond
and colleagues in Paris and Padova, and represents an impressive development in
the growing field of regenerative medicine.
Muscle derived stem cells are presently considered the best
source for muscle regeneration. However they cannot be used to treat muscular
dystrophies because the stem cells themselves are affected in individuals with
these conditions. Due to this challenge, other cell sources have been explored
but so far no definitive treatment has been successful.
De Coppi’s team has demonstrated that intravenous
transplantation of amniotic fluid stem (AFS) cells enhances the muscle strength
and improves the survival rate of the affected animals. This is the first study
to demonstrate the functional and stable integration of AFS cells into skeletal
muscle, highlighting their value as a cell source for the treatment of muscular
However, the research is still at a relatively early stage
as the work has only been carried out in animal models.
Dr Coppi said: “Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic
disease affecting one in 6,000 births. It is currently incurable and in its
most severe form children with the condition may not survive long into
childhood. Children with a less severe form face the prospect of progressive
muscle wasting, loss of mobility and motor function. There is an urgent need
for improved treatments.
“We are excited by this potential new approach for
regenerating skeletal muscle tissue, but much more research is needed. We now
need to perform more in-depth studies with human AFS cells in mouse models to
see if it is viable to use cells derived from the amniotic fluid to treat
diseases affecting skeletal muscle tissue.”