While discussing stem cells can immediately polarize a conversation, the promise they offer could silence the critics. The ability of stem cells to become other types of cells is well known.
However, another property of stem cells harvested from the placenta can offer new hope for premature babies suffering from bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
The placenta is unique in that it allows cells from two individuals – mother and child – to coexist without one trying to destroy the other as a pathogen. Placental cells afford possibilities to researchers looking to fix the lungs of premature babies born with lung conditions.
Professor Euan Wallace, from Monash University in Australia, is in the middle of a selective clinical trial. Wallace’s team harvested stem cells from the amniotic membrane of a donor placenta and administered the cells into the lungs of babies born in the late second and early third trimesters who exhibit signs of lung malformation.
Professor Wallace has developed this procedure over the course of ten years of research. This clinical trial involves only two babies, one of which showed immediate improvement. According to Wallace, approximately one-third of babies born in the early third trimester have bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Of those diagnosed, nearly one-quarter will die, despite rigorous care provided by professionals.
Given the encouraging results of phase 1 of this study, Wallace has designed a larger clinical trial with between 30 and 60 patients.
The potentially lifesaving stem cells do not need to be harvested from the mother at the moment of birth. In fact, the stem cells can come from any willing donor as blood typing and genetic matching are not required. The most important factor in harvesting is the sterility of the environment. For this reason, stem cells are only collected from placentae associated with cesarean section births.
Best of all, the ready supply of stem cells allows for stockpiling of resources. A single placenta can yield in excess of 250 million cells. A typical treatment involves the administration of 3-5 million cells to the newborn.
Clinical trials using similar techniques to address liver dysfunctions and cirrhosis are also being investigated by other teams. This could be just the beginning of a revolution in treating these diseases thanks to the miracle of the placenta.
Learn more about this cutting edge treatment by clicking here.