The clash between research advocates and religious groups over the use of embryonic stem cells could be resolved by using placentas, according to a report from University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (via Pittsburgh Live).
Unlike embryonic stem cells, which are obtained only by destroying human embryos, these cells can be extracted from the same placentas that now are routinely discarded after birth. They thus could be a non-controversial alternative to embryonic stem cells.
“We think it would be easier to get these to the clinic than [embryonic stem] cells,” said Stephen Strom, an associate professor of pathology at the Pitt medical school.
Surprisingly, one of the big differences between embryonic and placental cells — the absence of telomerase — could actually be an advantage for clinical applications:
Not only do amniotic epithelial cells lack the controversy of embryonic stem cells, but they also do not generate the tumors associated with embryonic stem cells, he said. So it may be possible in some cases to simply transplant the amniotic cells to a patient, rather than to first grow the desired specialized cells in the laboratory.