In utero therapy for congenital disorders using amniotic fluid stem cells

Durrgah L. Ramachandra, Steven S.W. Shaw, Panicos Shangaris, Stavros Loukogeorgakis, Pascale V. Guillot, Paolo De Coppi, Anna L. David*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Congenital diseases are responsible for over a third of all pediatric hospital admissions. Advances in prenatal screening and molecular diagnosis have allowed the detection of many life-threatening genetic diseases early in gestation. In utero transplantation (IUT) with stem cells could cure affected fetuses but so far in humans, successful IUT using allogeneic hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), has been limited to fetuses with severe immunologic defects and more recently IUT with allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell transplantation, has improved phenotype in osteogenesis imperfecta. The options of preemptive treatment of congenital diseases in utero by stem cell or gene therapy changes the perspective of congenital diseases since it may avoid the need for postnatal treatment and reduce future costs. Amniotic fluid stem (AFS) cells have been isolated and characterized in human, mice, rodents, rabbit, and sheep and are a potential source of cells for therapeutic applications in disorders for treatment prenatally or postnatally. Gene transfer to the cells with long-term transgenic protein expression is feasible. Recently, pre-clinical autologous transplantation of transduced cells has been achieved in fetal sheep using minimally invasive ultrasound guided injection techniques. Clinically relevant levels of transgenic protein were expressed in the blood of transplanted lambs for at least 6 months. The cells have also demonstrated the potential of repair in a range of pre-clinical disease models such as neurological disorders, tracheal repair, bladder injury, and diaphragmatic hernia repair in neonates or adults. These results have been encouraging, and bring personalized tissue engineering for prenatal treatment of genetic disorders closer to the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Amniotic fluid
  • Congenital disease
  • Gene therapy
  • In utero therapy
  • Stem cells


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