Stem cells extracted from a placenta

BREAKTHROUGH?:NHRI researchers removed the cells from a human placenta in a procedure that avoids ethical issues posed by using human embryos

CNA , Taipei

Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 4

A group of researchers in Taiwan announced yesterday that they have successfully isolated a population of multipotent cells from a human placenta, which could be a new source of stem cells and could provide an alternative to embryonic stem cells or stem cells taken from adults.

Bone marrow and other cells were differentiated from the placenta-derived multipotent cells after culture, the researchers said.

The achievement was made by a team of researchers from the National Health Research Institute (NHRI), National Taiwan University Hospital and Cathay General Hospital.

A report on the achievement has been published in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cells and the team is applying for a patent for the technology.

According to Chen Yao-chang (陳耀昌) from the NHRI's Stem Cell Research Center, although the differentiation potential of placenta-derived multipotent cells is slightly lower than that of embryonic stem cells, it does not involve the ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cell research.

In addition, the placenta, which weighs 700 grams to 800 grams, is a high-yield source of stem cells compared with cord blood, which is only 80 grams to 90 grams in a newborn, Chen said. Compared to stem cells extracted from bone marrow, placenta-derived cells carry a higher differentiation potential, and it does not involve an invasive procedure such as extracting bone marrow, Chen said.

Theoretically, the placenta-derived cells could be applied in the treatment of patients with brain damage or bone fractures, he said.

However, the research is still premature and it is estimated that it will take 10 years before the technology can be used commercially.