Placenta as a reservoir of stem cells: An underutilized resource?

Caterina Pipino, Panicos Shangaris, Elisa Resca, Silvia Zia, Jan Deprest, Neil J. Sebire, Anna L. David, Pascale V. Guillot, Paolo De Coppi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


IntroductionBoth embryonic and adult tissues are sources of stem cells with therapeutic potential but with some limitations in the clinical practice such as ethical considerations, difficulty in obtaining and tumorigenicity. As an alternative, the placenta is a foetal tissue that can be obtained during gestation and at term, and it represents a reservoir of stem cells with various potential.Sources of dataWe reviewed the relevant literature concerning the main stem cells that populate the placenta.Areas of agreementRecently, the placenta has become useful source of stem cells that offer advantages in terms of proliferation and plasticity when compared with adult cells and permit to overcome the ethical and safety concern inherent in embryonic stem cells. In addition, the placenta has the advantage of containing epithelia, haematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells possess immunosuppressive properties and have the capacity of suppress in vivo inflammatory responses.Areas of controversySome studies describe a subpopulation of placenta stem cells expressing pluripotency markers, but for other studies, it is not clear whether pluripotent stem cells are present during gestation beyond the first few weeks. Particularly, the expression of some pluripotency markers such as SSEA-3, TRA-1-60 and TRA-1-81 has been reported by us, but not by others.Growing pointsPlacenta stem cells could be of great importance after delivery for banking for autologous and allogeneic applications. The beneficial effects of these cells may be due to secretion of bioactive molecules that act through paracrine actions promoting beneficial effects.Areas timely for developing researchUnderstanding the role of placenta stem cells during pregnancy and their paracrine actions could help in the study of some diseases that affect the placenta during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-67
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Medical Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • amniotic epithelial cells
  • haematopoietic stem cells
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • placenta


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