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Open Access Autologous Transplantation of Amniotic Fluid-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Into Sheep Fetuses

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Long-term engraftment and phenotype correction has been difficult to achieve in humans after in utero stem cell transplantation mainly because of allogeneic rejection. Autologous cells could be obtained during gestation from the amniotic fluid with minimal risk for the fetus and the mother. Using a sheep model, we explored the possibility of using amniotic fluid mesenchymal stem cells (AFMSCs) for autologous in utero stem cell/gene therapy. We collected amniotic fluid (AF) under ultrasound-guided amniocentesis in early gestation pregnant sheep (n = 9, 58 days of gestation, term = 145 days). AFMSCs were isolated and expanded in all sampled fetal sheep. Those cells were transduced using an HIV vector encoding enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP) with 63.2% (range 38.3‐96.2%) transduction efficiency rate. After expansion, transduced AFMSCs were injected into the peritoneal cavity of each donor fetal sheep at 76 days under ultrasound guidance. One ewe miscarried twin fetuses after amniocentesis. Intraperitoneal injection was successful in the remaining 7 fetal sheep giving a 78% survival for the full procedure. Tissues were sampled at postmortem examination 2 weeks later. PCR analysis detected GFP-positive cells in fetal tissues including liver, heart, placenta, membrane, umbilical cord, adrenal gland, and muscle. GFP protein was detected in these tissues by Western blotting and further confirmed by cytofluorimetric and immunofluorescence analyses. This is the first demonstration of autologous stem cell transplantation in the fetus using AFMSCs. Autologous cells derived from AF showed widespread organ migration and could offer an alternative way to ameliorate prenatal congenital disease.

Keywords: Amniotic fluid stem cell; Autologous stem cell transplantation; In utero; Sheep

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Prenatal Cell and Gene Therapy Group, Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, London, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

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