We took human amniotic epithelial cells (hAECs) from placentae and isolated the cells with the enzyme activities that are lacking in three inherited metabolic disorders: mucopolysaccharidosis type I (MSP I, or Hurler syndrome), maple syrup urine disease and ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC). By transplanting these enzymatically-active cells into mice, we demonstrated an effective treatment for these disorders.
Our group and others have demonstrated that hAECs possess unique stem cell-like qualities, such as the ability to differentiate. More importantly, hAECs are genetically stable and therefore don’t form tumors upon transplantation in mice and humans.
During the first year of the project, we identified markers on the surface of hAECs that indicate the presence of the genes that code for the desired enzymes. We successfully established colonies of mice with each of the three metabolic disorders and defined the protocols for the radiological and biochemical tests, or assays. We also performed several hAEC transplantations to mice with MSP I.
The first case of hAEC transplantation demonstrated a very promising result: the pathologic protein concentration in the urine of the treated MSP I mouse was dramatically decreased. We will confirm this result by investigating it further in more mice.
As proposed, we have also started building a small-scale bio-bank of hAECs from 24 placentae. These hAECs will be used to determine whether hAECs retain their therapeutic potential after cryopreservation, or freezing.