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Stem Cell Benefit From Menstruation?

Study: Menstrual Blood Contains Adult Stem Cells
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 15, 2007 -- Menstruation may have a fringe benefit as a source of adult stem cells.

Scientists report that menstrual blood contains adult stem cells that can develop into nine different types of cells:

  • Heart cells
  • Lung cells
  • Nerve cells
  • Muscle cells
  • Cells that line the inside of blood vessels
  • Pancreatic cells
  • Liver cells
  • Fat cells
  • Bone cells

During menstruation, the womb sheds its lining.  Xiaolong Meng, MD, and colleagues reasoned that that lining might be a good source of stem cells.

Using a urine sample cup, a healthy woman collected a little bit of her menstrual blood for the researchers to analyze.

Meng's team dubbed the stem cells in the menstrual blood "endometrial regenerative cells." The endometrium is the womb's lining, which is shed during menstruation.

In lab tests, the scientists coaxed the endometrial regenerative cells (ERCs) into different types of cells. Within five days, the fledgling heart cells were beating, according to the study.

ERCs may be a source of patient-specific stem cells for women, the researchers suggest.

The cells "can not only be banked until future use, but can also be expanded and pre-differentiated into various tissues so that patient-specific tissues are 'on standby' and ready for use when needed," Meng and colleagues write in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

Bone marrow is another source of adult stem cells, but it's harder to get and is slower to grow in a lab than the endometrial regenerative cells, according to the researchers.

The study was designed and funded by Medistem Laboratories, which has filed patent applications related to endometrial regenerative cells. Four of Meng's colleagues work for Medistem.

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