Stromal cells are found in the endometrial lining of the uterus and are shed every month during menstruation. Stromal cells are also found in connective tissues throughout the body, and are known to differentiate into new cartilage, bone, fat, heart, skin and brain cells. Such cells are now the focus of intense research throughout the world, as the discovery of their presence in menstrual blood offers a new opportunity for easily and noninvasively collecting such prized cells. Known as MenSCs (menstrual blood stromal cells), these cells may be harvested from a potentially unlimited, inexpensive, and continuous source by methods that are free of ethical controversies.
According to Dr. Amit Patel, director of Cardiac Cell Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine, “Uterine stromal cells have similar multipotent markers found in bone marrow stem cells and originate in part from bone marrow.” When the MenSCs were grown in the laboratory, the cells were found to divide very rapidly, even more rapidly than stromal cells that are harvested directly from bone marrow. Although MenSCs do not divide as fast as embryonic stem cells do, MenSCs also do not carry any of the risks that are associated with embryonic stem cells, such as the formation of a particular type of cancerous tumor known as a teratoma.
Cryo-Cell International was a partner in conducting the research. According to Julie Allickson, vice president of laboratory operations, research and development at Cryo-Cell, “The preliminary results are extremely encouraging and support the importance of further study of these cells in several different areas including heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disease.” According to Dr. Dwaine Emerich, a section editor for Cell Transplantation, “These studies are a significant step forward in the development of transplantable stem cells for human diseases because they address major issues including routine and safe cell harvesting of renewable cells that maintain their differentiation capacity and can be scaled for widespread clinical use.”
It is believed that these rapidly dividing MenSCs may be of particular usefulness in those diseases that require organ transplantation. Instead of transplanting an organ that has been donated by someone, scientists will instead be able to grow a new organ, and the other new tissue that is needed, from MenSCs such as these.
These findings with MenSCs offer further substantiating evidence for the potency of endometrial regenerative cells (ERCs), the properties of which were first described by scientists of Medistem Laboratories, who published the first full elucidation of ERCs in the Journal of Translational Medicine in November of 2007 in an article entitled, “Endometrial Regnerative Cells: A Novel Stem Cell Population”. The Medistem scientists were then honored with an award by Biomed Central for the best research article of 2007 in medicine, which was presented at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in March of 2008.