Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA | Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA | Tel.: +1 617 919 2966; Fax: +1 617 730 0910; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: Regenerative medicine as it applies to spina bifida is a multi-pronged endeavor involving spinal cord repair, tissue engineering and fetal regeneration, all of which can mutually overlap to variable extents. The efforts involving spinal cord repair, whether they be cell-based or not, are virtually indistinguishable from the enormous body of work related to spinal cord recovery after traumatic injury. Tissue engineering, on the other hand, can involve a variety of structures besides constructs used for covering the spina bifida defect, for example the urinary bladder, bone, muscle and skin. This brief review will not delve into any of these two main areas, which actually can also involve fetal interventions within their respective realms, but rather be devoted to a very recent development making use of the uniquely enhanced ability of the fetus to repair, or regenerate areas of tissue damage, coined transamniotic stem cell therapy, or TRASCET. TRASCET is a still experimental therapeutic paradigm for the treatment of not only spina bifida, but also other birth defects, based on the principle of harnessing/enhancing the normal biological role of a select population of stem cells that naturally occur in the amniotic fluid, specifically amniotic fluid-derived mesenchymal stem cells (afMSCs), for therapeutic benefit.