New way to obtain stem cells

Author:  Minnie Rai
Institution:  University of Western Ontairo
Date:  November 2007

Researchers from the Biocommunications Research Institute in Wichita, Kansas, along with teams from the University of Alberta and the University of Western Ontario have discovered a stem cell from menstrual blood in women that has the potential to treat damaged or senesced tissue.aged tissue. During menstruation – a monthly cycle where blood and mucosal tissue from the uterus in nonpregnant women is released – cells that line the womb wall are shed. Researchers discovered that some of these cells are a type of stem cell, which they called Endometrial Regenerative Cells (ERC), and that these cells can differentiate into several different cell types. This research was published in the November issue of the Journal of Translational Medicineand sponsored by Medistem Laboratories.

What makes ERCs stem cells from the endometrium versus stem cells extracted from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood so remarkable is their proliferation rate. The researchers cultured menstrual blood in the lab and observed a doubling of cells occurring every 19.4 hours, and they also producing growth at a rate of almost 100,000 greater than stem cells from bone marrow and blood from the umbilical cord. The uniqueness and versatility of this type of stem cell does not rest there as they have the ability to develop into at least 9 different types of lineages including heart, liver, and lung cells.

The team of researchers also noted that 5 ml of menstrual blood from a healthy woman's womb wall would provide a sufficient number of cells, which only after a period of two weeks were cultured in the lab to stimulate beating heart cells. This new research is groundbreaking because these cells can be cultured on a larger scale, providing another option to the current sources of stem cells such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, which still possess the risk of rejection by the recipient (the article just mentioned this point and did not explain how ERCs avoids recipient rejection of tissue- I couldn't find any information. If anything I can delete that statement since I don't have anything to support that point except simply paraphrasing a point made in the article) in stem cell therapies.

Lead researcher Dr Xiaolong Meng is optimistic that ERCs will have applications in stem cell therapies. "We have many problems with our current methods of stem cell therapy, like those taken from bone marrow, they may be rejected by the recipient and/or have limited potential to generate new tissue. Now we've found a possible new way to overcome these difficulties by using cells from menstrual blood. "

Disagreements between the scientific world and the pro-life movement still ensues over stem cell research and the ethics of this practice. However, the discovery of ERCs represents a possible alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells for stem cell research, and may entail fewer ethical implications than the use of other stem cell sources.

Written by Minnie Rai

Reviewed by Charles Tran

Published by Pooja Ghatalia