Banking Amniotic Fluid

Monday, July 11, 2011 - 6:55am

Holding on to a sample of your baby's amniotic fluid could reap medical benefits later in life.

A Massachusetts company is leading the growing field of amniotic fluid banking.

Amniotic fluid is rich in stem cells which can be nudged to grow into may types of tissue.

Doctors routinely take some of that fluid for pre-natal testing.

Some believe keeping samples could pay off later in life.

Biocell Center, the largest amniotic fluid storage facility in the U.S., is located just outside of Boston.

"The cells are multifunctional, they are very potent, very strong" says Biocell CEO Dr. Kate Torchlin. "What makes amniotic fluid unique is that the cells that are present in the fluid are so called multi functional stem cells and that they have the ability to develop in many different organs and tissues and bone and skin".

The theory is that these cells can be used to treat an array of illnesses.

Researchers at Boston's Children's Hospital are already close to repairing heart defects with the

This is how the banking works: rather than discard excess amniotic fluid taken during routine pre-natal testing it's sent to Biocell.

First the cells are separated from the fluid which is treated with chemicals to protect the cells during freezing, it's all remixed, then the cool down begins.

Eventually be chilled to 196 degrees below zero, where it can be stored forever.

Because the genetic material is person specific, you need to do this for each pregnancy.

Torchilin acknowledges there haven't been any withdrawals from the bank yet because use for these cells is limited, but research is rapidly expanding the horizon.

There might come a time, says Torchilin, when these cells could grow enough tissue to be used as a replacement heart valve or even a kidney.

"The samples that we receive from expectant parents for preservation are strictly preserved for that purpose. So they would never leave the walls of this facility and they will never be used for any kind of research," Dr. Torchlin says.

You pay $1,620 to preserve and store the amniotic fluid during the first year and $125 every year after.

Initially contracts are written for 19 years, but when the child is 18 they can assume responsibility for the banked cells.

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