Amniotic Tissue ABC
Regenerative medicine is a rapidly evolving field that leverages innovation in biotechnology to repair or replace human cells and tissues to restore normal function. The long-awaited promise of channeling the body’s own repair mechanisms via bioengineering is, at last, a reality.
Amniotic tissue grafts are one of the most promising regenerative technologies. Amniotic tissue was first used just over 100 years ago as a skin substitute over burns and ulcers. However, it took advances in processing and sterilization technologies to bring the tissue into common usage.
The amniotic membrane refers to the sac that covers the baby and contains the amniotic fluid in utero. The advantage of using amniotic membrane over embryonic stem cells is that there is no destruction of embryos to obtain the tissue. The amniotic membrane is harvested at the time of delivery during planned caesarean section births from mothers who have consented to the donation of the tissue. There are various processing techniques that have been used after harvesting. In the case of dehydrated amnion, such as Tides Medical’s AmnioHeal® Plus, the tissue is washed, dried, cut, sterilized and packaged.
Amniotic tissue is comprised of three main layers: epithelial cells, a thick basement membrane that anchors the cells, and a loose acellular layer below. The acellular layer contains numerous growth factors important for wound healing. Other biologic properties of proteins in this layer include reduction of inflammation, scarring, and infection. Additionally, this layer has several types of collagen that create a native scaffold to support the cells recruited to speed the healing process.
The anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, anti-scarring, and enhanced wound healing properties of amniotic tissue have been leveraged in a number of clinical areas. Amnion has been used in ophthalmology, on burns, on chronic wounds and ulcers, and, more recently, in podiatry, urology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, and obstetrics. The explosion of clinical research in this area is documenting the immense potential of this membrane for the repair of human cells and tissues.