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Discarded fallopian tubes provide stem cells for research

22 June 2009
Appeared in BioNews 513

A research team in Brazil has shown that cells from post-operatively discarded fallopian tubes can be used for stem cell research. The team, based at the University of Sao Paolo, showed that fallopian tubes discarded after hysterectomies contain 'mesenchymal' stem cells that are 'pluripotent'; they are capable of developing into multiple tissue types. The finding, reported in the journal of Translational Medicine, offers the prospect of new source of stem cells for research.

Previous studies have shown that mesenchymal cells harvested from umbilical tissue, menstrual blood, tooth pulp and fat tissue - all of which are biological 'discards' - can develop, or differentiate, into muscle, bone, fat and cartilage. The team in Brazil examined cells from six discarded fallopian tubes from fertile women aged between 35 and 53, who had not undergone any hormonal treatments at least three months prior to surgery. They found high levels of protein markers considered to indicate mesenchymal stem cells. In addition, they found that the cells were easily separated from the tubes, grew well in the laboratory, and differentiated without any signs of chromosomal abnormality through successive generations.

Human fallopian tube mesenchymal cells may therefore provide a cell population that can be 'rapidly expanded for potential clinical applications', according to Dr Mayana Zatz, a member of the research team in Brazil. They also represent an alternative source of stem cells for scientists working in countries that prevent or limit the use of human embryonic stem cells (ES cells) in research.

Though it will be some time before scientists know if these cells can be used for the treatment of diseases, the finding has been hailed as a boon to stem cell research by those with ethical objections to the use of human ES cells in research. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said that 'obtaining multi-potent stem cells from discarded fallopian tubes is yet another example of the extraordinary potential of human waste tissue'.

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