Amniotic and Placental Stem Cell Research Could Help Millions (Rep. Dan Lipinski)

In January of this year, new scientific research was published in Nature Biotechnology that demonstrated the potential of stem cells found in amniotic fluid and placenta.  These stem cells – which can be easily collected without risk to the donor or embryo – can grow into brain, muscle, and other tissues, and findings indicate that they could be used to treat a variety of diseases.

In fact, initial tests conducted by Wake Forest University scientists have resulted in some promising findings.  Studies utilizing these stem cells in mice have created dopamine producing cells, possibly pointing to a future treatment for Parkinson’s or other diseases.  There have also been promising findings in developing treatments for afflictions such as diabetes, an illness I have lived with for more than 17 years. Further studies on primates may result in additional findings.

However, research on amniotic and placental stem cells has been slowed by a lack of national coordination.  Scientists must use their own time, money, and resources to collect and store these cells.  This diverts valuable resources from finding treatments and cures.  In addition, potential future patients in need of a treatment developed from this research will need to find a genetic match.

In response to these need, several of my colleagues joined me in introducing H.R. 1892, the National Amniotic and Placental Stem Cell Bank Act of 2007.   This legislation authorizes funds for a national stem cell bank which will collect and store 100,000 amniotic and placental stem cell samples to be made available for research and treatment purposes.  These samples would provide the genetic diversity necessary to cover the U.S. population, while also providing for the research needs of the scientific community.

As Dr. Anthony Atala, the Director of the Wake Forest University Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a leading researcher in this field, stated, “The establishment of an amniotic fluid and placenta stem cell bank would further research into these areas and would add to our armamentarium of stem cell therapies that could benefit patients in the future.

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