Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 00:08 UK

Hysterectomies a stem cell source

Stem cell research
Stem cell work may find cures for intractable diseases

Discarded fallopian tubes from hysterectomies could be a good source of donor stem cells, say researchers.

Work shows they are an abundant source of the immature cells that have the potential to become a variety of the body's tissues, like muscle and bone.

The discovery offers another "ethical" route to creating stem cell treatments for diseases like arthritis without using embryos.

The findings are published in The Journal of Translational Medicine.

Experts have already shown that getting mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cords, menstrual blood, teeth and fat tissue is viable.

Discarded tissue

The latest work by a Brazilian team from the University of São Paulo suggests fallopian tubes, discarded during the course of hysterectomies or female sterilisation operations, can be added to this list.

Once harvested, the scientists were able to multiply and then coax the mesenchymal stem cells to turn into apparently healthy muscle, fat, cartilage and bone cell lines in the lab.

This is another promising source to add to the list of so-called 'ethical' sources of stem cells
Stem cell expert Stephen Minger

Given that these adult stem cells are capable of replacing damaged cells in the fallopian tube, the researchers envisage the cells could be useful for understanding and treating fertility problems as well as providing a source of stem cells for regenerative medicine.

However, it will still take more time and research before cells like these could be given to patients.

Much of the work on stem cells has focused on those taken from embryos as they have an unlimited capacity to become any of the types of cells and tissue in the human body - a so-called pluripotent state.

But campaigners have objected to their use on the grounds that it is unethical to destroy embryos in the name of science.

Stem cell expert Stephen Minger, of Kings College London, said: "This is another promising source to add to the list of so-called 'ethical' sources of stem cells."

But he pointed out that bone marrow and fat were more accessible less intrusive sources.

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "Obtaining multi-potent stem cells from discarded fallopian tubes is yet another example of the extraordinary potential of human waste tissue.

"Hopefully these cells could also be used to repair damaged fallopian tubes, which are so often a major contributor to female infertility."

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