Scientists looking for easier and less-controversial alternatives to stem cells from human embryos said on Friday they found a potential source in human placentas which is saved during childbirth.

They found primitive cells found in a part of the placenta called the amnion, which they coaxed into forming a variety of cell types and which look very similar to highly sought-after embryonic stem cells.

With 4 million children born in the United States each year, placentas could provide a ready source of the cells, the team at the University of Pittsburgh said.

It is not yet certain that the cells they found are true stem cells, said Stephen Strom, who worked on the study. But they carry two important genes, called Oct 4 and nanog, which so far have only been seen on embryonic stem cells.

“We were just blown away when we found those two genes expressed in those cells,” Strom said in a telephone interview.

“The presence of these two genes suggests these cells are pluripotent, which means they should be able to form any cell type in the body.”

Source: Reuters [go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=9288479&src=rss/scienceNews]

This is very exciting news for scientists and doctors working with stem cells to cure variety of diseases from Parkinson’s to Muscular Dystrophy, Diabetes etc.