The placenta plays an important role in the growth of your baby while in the womb. It is responsible for providing oxygen-rich blood to the foetus, which contains valuable nutrients that are essential for growth. It also removes waste and keeps the foetus safe from disease.
But the placenta’s ability to support life doesn’t necessarily finish after your child is born. Researchers have discovered that the placenta and amniotic membrane both contain powerful cells with regenerative capabilities.
These cells can be used to heal eye injuries, burns, ulcers and, other types of wounds. There are also ongoing clinical trial which suggest that amniotic cells may be used to treat arthritis, chronic pulmonary damage, brain injuries and several other conditions.
In this article, we'll talk about the amniotic membrane which resides inside the placenta, the role of this membrane and how it may be used.
What Is The Amniotic Membrane?
The amniotic membrane is a thin-walled sac that surrounds the foetus while it is inside the placenta. Its primary role is to seperate the mother and foetus, preventing the transference of disease.
The amniotic membrane consists of two distinct layers: the chorion (outer layer) and the amnion (inner layer). These layers are separated by a squishy layer of cells.
There are three types of materials contained within the amniotic membrane:
- Collagen and extracellular matrix
- Biologically active cells
- Regenerative molecules
The extracellular matrix gives the membrane structure, while the collagen provides strength. The biologically active cells include stem cells, fibroblasts, and a variety of other growth factors. Their role is to regenerate cellular materials in the lining of the membrane. Fibroblasts further strengthen the tissue while epithelial cells improve healing.
There are several regenerative molecules in the amnion, which further improve growth and healing. Immunosuppressive cytokines are also present, which prevent the membrane from being seen as 'foreign' by the mother’s immune system.
Researchers have known for many years that this diverse collection of stem cells, growth factors, anti-inflammatory factors, and immunosuppressive cytokines, are useful for treating wounds. The amniotic membrane can:
- Enhance the wound healing process
- Reduce scar tissue formation
- Reduce pain when applied to a wound
- Provide a matrix for the accumulation of new cells
- Reduce inflammation
- Provide a biological anti-bacterial barrier that protects injuries from infection
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How Is The Amniotic Membrane Currently Used?
Opthamologists often use the amniotic membrane to improve healing after eye surgery. It is used like a biological bandage, which is placed over the damaged eye tissue. Because the membrane is transparent, elastic, and lightweight, it is perfect for protecting the eye.
The anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-scarring properties of amniotic membrane improve the healing process dramatically. The analgesic properties reduce pain levels experienced by the patient while the extracellular matrix makes it easier for new cells to grow.The regenerative properties of the amniotic membrane also make it useful as a treatment for eye injuries including:
- Eye ulcers
- Corneal perforations
- Ocular chemical burns
- Diseases that cause ulcerations
Diabetes is a very common condition, affecting over 400 million people worldwide. About 15% of people with diabetes will develop diabetic ulcers, which are painful and difficult to treat. In severe cases, they can lead to amputations of the feet or legs.
The amniotic membrane is very effective at treating these types of ulcers. Applying the membrane to an ulcer encourages skin growth, relieves pain, reduces inflammation and provides anti-bacterial properties.
The regenerative properties of the amnion also make it useful for healing other types of wounds. It is particularly valuable for healing burns and wounds which are prone to ulceration. Studies have found that an amniotic membrane dressing can improve wound healing by as much as 50%.
What Could The Future Hold?
Researchers have discovered that the amniotic membrane may be useful for treating several other types of conditions, including:
OsteoarthritisA recent study found that mesenchymal stems cells (MSCs), which are found in the amniotic membrane and umbilical cord blood, may be effective at treating osteoarthritis of the knee.
Dry eyeA 2018 study confirmed that amniotic membrane is very effective at reducing the symptoms of dry eye.
Inflammatory conditionsThe anti-inflammatory capacity of the amniotic membrane may make it useful for treating skin conditions like contact dermatitis.
To learn more about the conditions which be treated using the amniotic membrane and other placental cells, visit https://www.medcells.ae/services/placenta-banking/