There is a difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells, but first it would help to explain stem cells themselves. Stem cells are cells that have not yet formed enough to perform a specific function. As cells mature, they begin to perform specific tissue functions. They may carry oxygen through the bloodstream or they may carry messages to the brain. Until they begin to form this specific function, they are unspecified. Research into stem cells began as an exercise to see if manipulation outside of the body was possible. The goal was to get these cells to perform specific functions of our choice.
This is the reason the stem cells come from a growing embryo. Until the embryo becomes a fetus, the stem cells are unspecified. As the embryo grows, they start to perform the specific function that they will carry out through your adulthood. Stem cells are extracted in various ways. They can come from the embryo itself. They can come from the amniotic fluid or membrane. Plus, they can also come from adults, though these have limited capacity for self-renewal.
The advantage of taking stem cells early in life is that they contain a growth factor which allows them to replicate and promote growth of the like cells around them. How and when these cells arrive makes the difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells. At Epic Healthcare & Physical Medicine we use only amniotic stem cells for our therapy. You can call us at (972) 355-0083 for further information.
Embryonic stem cells are taken from embryos that have been created through in-vitro fertilization. Embryonic stem cells are obtained when a fetus is 5 – 12 days old. These fetuses are grown specifically for this purpose. This is the ethical dilemma that surrounds embryonic stem cells. When the stem cells are extracted, the embryo is destroyed. The other problem with embryonic stem cells is that the host, the person being treated with them, can reject the stem cells and this is another difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells.
To avoid this problem, the stem cell can be an embryonic clone of the person who will receive them using in-vitro fertilization. The embryo, of course, would be destroyed when the stem cells are harvested. This is known as therapeutic cloning because the embryo is grown for this specific purpose. Producing a baby is not the goal. The high plasticity of embryonic stem cells, that is their ability to become any type of cell in the body, is what makes embryonic cells so valuable. There is virtually no cell that they can’t replicate, which makes their value very high in treating diseases and conditions.
Amniotic stem cells, on the other hand, come from various sources and do not harm the embryo. Amniotic stem cells come from amniotic fluid or the placenta itself after the birth of the baby. These stem cells come by way of amniocentesis. This is a routine test, performed on women after their 16th week of pregnancy to allow doctors to test for genetic abnormalities. This test does not harm the fetus in most cases, offering another difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells. This test is now considered routine.
Stem cells make up 1% of the cells in amniotic fluid, so it is a rich source for these cells. Scientists can get amniotic stem cells to transform into types of tissue found in fat, organs, nerves, muscles, bones and blood vessels. This allows the amniotic stem cells to transform into bone, muscle and connective tissue, which is useful for joint conditions; digestive organs and lung tissue; and nerve, skin and brain tissue.
Scientists have been able to transform amniotic stem cells into pluripotent cells, such as embryonic stem cells – giving them the ability to transform into any type of tissue needed. Amniotic stem cells replicate quickly, so the amniotic fluid is a wonderful resource for these cells. They can also come from the placenta after a baby is born. This is another difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells. Typically, the placenta is a wonderful option after birth as it is unnecessary to retain.
The major differences between amniotic and embryonic stem cells are the following. First, amniotic stem cells don’t destroy the embryo. They come from the fluid the embryo lives in and does not harm the baby. Next, amniotic stem cells are further along the development path and so they tend not to transform into tumor cells, as embryonic stem cells can. When this happens, the embryonic cell used to correct one condition could cause the patient to develop a different problem, such as cancer. The most important difference between amniotic and embryonic stem cells is the rejection factor. Embryonic stem cells can be rejected by the host, as can happen with organ transplants. Amniotic stem cells have no such problem, making them a superior choice for many applications.