In utero transplantation (IUT) of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) has been proposed as a strategy for the prenatal treatment of congenital hematological diseases. However, levels of long-term hematopoietic engraftment achieved in experimental IUT to date are subtherapeutic, likely due to host fetal HSCs outcompeting their bone marrow (BM)-derived donor equivalents for space in the hematopoietic compartment. In the present study, we demonstrate that amniotic fluid stem cells (AFSCs; c-Kit+/Lin−) have hematopoietic characteristics and, thanks to their fetal origin, favorable proliferation kinetics in vitro and in vivo, which are maintained when the cells are expanded. IUT of autologous/congenic freshly isolated or cultured AFSCs resulted in stable multilineage hematopoietic engraftment, far higher to that achieved with BM-HSCs. Intravascular IUT of allogenic AFSCs was not successful as recently reported after intraperitoneal IUT. Herein, we demonstrated that this likely due to a failure of timely homing of donor cells to the host fetal thymus resulted in lack of tolerance induction and rejection. This study reveals that intravascular IUT leads to a remarkable hematopoietic engraftment of AFSCs in the setting of autologous/congenic IUT, and confirms the requirement for induction of central tolerance for allogenic IUT to be successful. Autologous, gene-engineered, and in vitro expanded AFSCs could be used as a stem cell/gene therapy platform for the in utero treatment of inherited disorders of hematopoiesis. Stem Cells 2019.
- Autologous stem cell transplantation
- Cell culture
- Fetal stem cells
- Transplantation tolerance