Biological Characteristics of Amniotic and Chorionic Villi Stem Cells

Cord blood stem
1 High replicative capacity YES NO YES NO
2 Non-invasive procedure NO YES YES NO
3 Number reproductions 100+ 5 < 100+ ?
4 Application potential HIGH MEDIUM HIGH HIGH
5 Cost - HIGH LOW -
6 Genomic stability LOW HIGH HIGH ?
9 Easiness of collection LOW MEDIUM HIGH ?
10 Samples "spare" stored separately NO ? YES ?
11 No ethical implications NO ? YES YES
1 Hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood: limited replicative capacity. Adult stem: depends on the type
2 Embryonic stem: death of the fetus. Adult stem: depends on the type and extraction procedure
3 Adult stem: depends on the type
4 Cord blood stem: applications only for hematopoietic cells
5 Embryonic stem: Unable autologous preservation. Adult stem: depends on the type and extraction procedure
6 Embryonic stem: low genomic stability. Adult stem: depends on the type of cells and procedures of expansion and subsequent use
7 /
8 /
9 Adult stem: depends on the type
10 Adult stem: depends on the type
11 Embryonic stem: ethically questionable for the death of the fetus. Cord blood stem cells: choice between donation and conservation for themselves

Stem cells derived from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi are fetal stem cells useful for potential therapeutic applications in regenerative medicine, cell therapy and for a number of human diseases under current medical investigation, as well as for other debilitating conditions such as severe traumatic injuries or reconstruction of osteoarticular cartilage and bone tissues.

We certainly need to be wary of who claims miraculous therapies in human, but still the emerging scientific consensus raises hopes for therapeutic interventions that may become a reality. Stem cells from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi are different and unique as compared to other stem cells: they are able to divide many times, are genetically stable and have a high differentiation potential which allows them to give rise to several different cell lines as for the bone tissue, muscle, nerve, cartilage and blood.

Stem cells are immature cells that can divide giving rise to daughter cells identical to the mother one, thus providing a potentially inexhaustible source of cells able to build, renew and repair damaged organs and tissues. It is important that the proliferative capacity of the stem cells is adequate and remains preserved during collection and preservation, in order to allow rapid cell expansion in sufficient number for therapeutic purposes. Data from the recent literature now come together in highlighting the high proliferation characteristics of fetal stem cells from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi.

References: In ‘t Anker P.S., et al., Amniotic fluid as a novel source of mesenchymal stem cells for therapeutic transplantation. Blood. 2003 Aug 15;102(4):1548-9. Poloni A., et al., Characterization and expansion of mesenchymal progenitor cells from first-trimester chorionic villi of human placenta. Cytotherapy. 2008;10(7):690-7. Sessarego N., et. al., Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells from amniotic fluid: solid perspectives for clinical application. Haematologica, 2008, 93(3):339-346.

Given their high ability of proliferation and self-renewal, stem cells may be susceptible of genomic damage that may in some cases result in an increased risk of neoplastic transformation. For this reason, stem cells of different origin must be subjected in advance to in-depth genetic investigations that verify their genomic stability before as well as after culturing. Evidence of literature indicate that stem cells from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi have a high genomic stability, even after prolonged maintenance in culture.

References: Angelo P.C., et al., Cryopreservation does not alter karyotype, multipotency, or NANOG/SOX2 gene expression of amniotic fluid mesenchymal stem cells. Genet Mol Res. 2012 Apr 19;11(2):1002-12. Poloni A., et al., Human mesenchymal stem cells from chorionic villi and amniotic fluid are not susceptible to transformation after extensive in vitro expansion. Cell Transplant. 2011;20(5):643-54. De Coppi P., et al., Isolation of amniotic stem cell lines with potential for therapy. Nature Biotechnology, 2007, 25 (1):100-106.


Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that, in addition to the capacity of dividing and proliferating, still maintain the properties of differentiating in specialized cells, so giving rise to all mature cell types of the human body. Stem cells are also found in some adult tissues, but their abundance is drastically reduced after birth, and their ability to differentiate is also limited to restricted or even specific cellular fates. Unlike adult stem cells, the differentiative capacity of fetal stem cells derived from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi is more plastic, and they are able to give rise to a much higher number of tissues, such as: bone, cartilage, muscle, myocardium, neurons, pancreatic islets, liver, etc.

References:Abumaree M.H., et al., Phenotypic and functional characterization of mesenchymal stem cells from chorionic villi of human term placenta. Stem Cell Rev. 2013 Feb;9(1):16-31. Yan Z.J., et al., Comparison of the neural differentiation potential of human mesenchymal stem cells from amniotic fluid and adult bone marrow. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2013 May;33(4):465-75. Bossolasco P., et al., Molecular and phenotypic characterization of human amniotic fluid cells and their differentiation potential. Cell Res. 2006 Apr;16(4):329-36.

Stem cells can be used in medicine for prevention and treatment of many diseases of immune nature, degenerative or traumatic, as well as for the treatment of congenital defects. The diseases that currently use stem cells as therapeutic sources (as autologous grafts or from other donor) include, in addition to a range of tumors (such as myelomas, leukemias and lymphomas), degenerative diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS and many other diseases. The use of fetal stem cells from amniotic fluid and chorionic villi has been similarly suggested for the treatment of these pathologies, and their use is considered particularly promising in the field of regenerative medicine for the repair and reconstruction of heart valves, trachea tracts, diaphragm, and bone and cartilaginous tissues. Several studies now show that these cells possess a biological profile similar to the mesenchymal stem cells derived from the bone marrow. Amniotic and placental-derived stem cells, for example, have been suggested for a potential use in cell therapy of diabetes, vascular diseases, as well as for the regeneration of skeletal muscle and osteo-cartilaginous tissues.

References:Petsche Connell J., et al., Amniotic Fluid-Derived Stem Cells for Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Applications. Tissue Eng Part B Rev. 2013 Mar 14. Calzarossa C, et al., Neurorescue effects and stem properties of chorionic villi and amniotic progenitor cells. Neuroscience. 2013 Mar 27;234:158-72. Murphy S.V., et al., Amniotic fluid and placental membranes: unexpected sources of highly multipotent cells. Semin Reprod Med. 2013 Jan;31(1):62-8.Trohatou O. et al., Human amniotic fluid stem cells as an attractive tool for clinical applications. Curr Stem Cell Res Ther. 2013 Mar;8(2):125-32. Rennie K., et al., Applications of amniotic membrane and fluid in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. Stem Cells Int. 2012;2012:721538. Longo U.G., et al., Stem cells from umbilical cord and placenta for musculoskeletal tissue engineering. Curr Stem Cell Res Ther. 2012 Jul;7(4):272-81. Zhong Z.N., et al., Potential of placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells as seed cells for bone tissue engineering: preliminary study of osteoblastic differentiation and immunogenicity. Orthopedics. 2012 Sep;35(9):779-88. Shaw S.W., et al., Clinical applications of prenatal and postnatal therapy using stem cells retrieved from amniotic fluid. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Apr;23(2):109-16. Antonucci I., et al., Amniotic fluid as a rich source of mesenchymal stromal cells for transplantation therapy. Cell Transplant. 2011;20(6):789-95. Da Sacco S., et al., Human amniotic fluid as a potential new source of organ specific precursor cells for future regenerative medicine applications. J Urol. 2010 Mar;183(3):1193-200. Kadam S., et al., Human placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells and islet-like cell clusters generated from these cells as a novel source for stem cell therapy in diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud. 2010 Summer;7(2):168-82.


Biocell Center has carried out research on stem cells derived from both amniotic fluid and chorionic villi, and below are listed the references of some of these studies:

References:Roselli et al., Fetal mesenchymal stromal cells derived from cryopreserved human chorionic villi are genetically stable in long-term cultures. Cytotherapy, In press. The Pregnancy Meeting, San Francisco (USA) 2011. FIRST Meeting, Milan (I) 2011. EMBO Workshop, Brescia (I) 2010.

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