Healthy Beginnings

Human Amniotic Membrane: an alternative source of stem cells

An up-close look at a group of stem cells under a microscope. Photo: Shutterstock

Human Amniotic Membrane (HAM) is tissue that is derived from the inner lining of the placenta. After the placenta is delivered, the amnion is mechanically separated from the rest of the placenta and washed several times.

After being thoroughly washed, the amnion is enzymatically digested to break the bonds holding the desired (stem) cells from the membrane. The stem cells are then collected after isolating them from the remainder of the fluid by centrifugation. This tissue is highly abundant and readily available since it is usually discarded after the birth of a baby.

I discussed platelet rich plasma (PRP) in last month’s Healthy Beginnings article. The benefits of using HAM are somewhat better than PRP, especially if the person desiring the therapy is over the age of 60.

The reason for this is that as we all get older, our platelets contain less and less growth factors. These are the components that trigger the growth and healing that PRP can stimulate in a damaged joint or tissue.

There are some considerable advantages to using HAM that make it attractive for use in the field of regenerative medicine. It has a low incidence of triggering an immune response or rejection. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and they are isolated without the sacrifice of human embryos.

Amniotic membranes have already proven themselves extensively as biologic dressings in ophthalmic, abdominal and plastic surgery. Another very interesting study showed that these types of stem cells have certain “markers” on them that show they can turn into heart, nerve, pancreatic or liver cells.

As these cells grow in culture, they release a wide range of associated growth factors that act to reduce inflammation and promote regrowth of new healthy tissue.

There are a wide range of similarities between the mechanisms of action and the growth-factor profiles; it would be expected for amnion-derived fluid to perform similarly to PRP in those areas where PRP is generally used — however, amnion-derived fluid has several different benefits when compared to PRP.

The growth factor profile of amnion-derived fluid is more consistent, and is not as severely affected by donor-based biological variability (in the level of growth factors) as PRP. This is in addition to the fact that no blood draw (and processing) is required to use the amnion-derived fluid.

PRP is the least expensive treatment for degenerative joints or tissue repair. Umbilical cord stem cells are the most expensive of the three approaches.

The big advantage of the amnion-derived fluid and cells is that it provides many of the pluses of stem cells — but at less than half the cost.

Robert A. Eslinger, D.O., H.M.D. is head doctor at the Reno Integrative Medical Center at 6110 Plumas St., Ste. B. Visit www.renointegrative.com or call 775-829-1009 to learn more.