Dr. De Filippo: Our hope would be that we would have fewer patients on a transplant list. That would mitigate the pressure that is on that list right now because you have a lot of patients and very few organs available.
Why use amniotic stem cells instead of the more well known, but controversial, embryonic stem cells?
Dr. De Filippo: Well, we have been working with this source of cells for quite some time, over 10 years. There are a lot of advantages with amniotic fluid stem cells; they are cells that are easily retrievable. They present very little in the way of harm for either the baby or the mother. They are cells that you can acquire in very large number, so for regenerative medicine purposes, or for tissue engineering purposes, that is very appealing because you need a lot of cells to basically build organs in the laboratory and you need a lot of cells for cell therapy. Amnionic stem cells don’t form tumors like your classic embryonic stem cells. They also don’t come with a lot of the ethical concerns associated with perhaps other embryonic stem cells lines. Yet, they are what we call pleury-potent so they can be differentiated into a variety of cell types and, therefore, be used for a variety of purposes. For these reasons, they are very appealing to bioengineers, tissue engineers, and regenerative medicine scientists.
Do you think it is too early for parents to start thinking about embryonic stem cell banks?
Dr. De Filippo: Not at all. This is a very exciting time for stem cell biologists and scientists everywhere. It is also interesting to think in terms of parents banking stem cells. Currently, parents are banking of cord blood and, so far, that is just a single stem cell type. As clinicians, we are faced with the fact that one cell type is not going to be ideal for everything we may need a variety of cell types to have at our disposable to treat diseases in a child’s future.
Can you list off 4 or 5 different kidney diseases that you are specifically working on?
Dr. De Filippo: We are working on acute kidney disease like acute tubular necrosis. We have a model for diabetic nephropathy, kidney disease related to diabetes. We are working on an Alport model in the laboratory that is a genetic disease that is a form of chronic kidney disease and ultimately can lead to kidney failure. Those are the 3 main models that we are working on right now.
How long until you begin treating patients in clinical trials?
Dr. De Filippo: We are very hopeful that some of our cell therapy work could be realized within the next 5 years. I think that is certainly a very realistic goal of ours. The cell therapy work that we are doing for chronic kidney disease could be in patients in the next 5 years. I think we have some very good data to support this projection and we are doing our best to make it happen.
Do you think the controversy surrounding stem cells is holding scientists back here in America compared to other countries?
Dr. De Filippo: What makes it great to work in a country like ours is that we can have those discussions and address the, issues. It allows us, as scientists, the opportunity to educate our colleagues and educate the population. I don’t think those are actually apprehending our discussions create obstacles in the long run. That being said, there are also alternative sources of stem cells, such as the amnionic fluid stem cells we are using in our lab, that tend to avoid many of the ethical issues.
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