Cells were isolated from four human amniotic membranes, and their biological characteristics analyzed during ex vivo expansion. Morphologically homogenous populations of fibroblast-like cells were obtained from the second or third passage. Under the appropriate culture conditions, these human amniotic membrane-derived mesenchymal cells (HAM) were shown to differentiate into adipocytes, osteocytes, chondrocytes and neuronal cells, as visualized by Oil Red O, von Kossa, alcian blue, anti-Neu N, and anti-Gal C antibody staining, respectively. Immunophenotype analysis of HAM cells revealed the presence of antigens for SSEA-3, SSEA-4, collagen type-I, -II, -III, -IV, -XII, fibronectin, alpha-SMA, vimentin, desmin, cytokeratin18 (CK18), HCAM-1, fibroblast surface protein, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) ABC. ICAM-1 protein was weakly detectable, and proteins of TRA-1-60, VCAM-1, von Willebrand factor, PECAM-1, and HLA DR were not detected. HAM cells reached senescence after 14.5+/-0.9 passages, over a period of 146.8+/-8.9 days, and underwent an average of 36.9 4.7 population doublings. RT-PCR analysis showed that all four HAM cell lines consistently expressed genes of Oct-4, Rex-1, SCF, NCAM, nestin, BMP-4, GATA-4, HNF-4alpha, vimentin, and CK18, regardless of the passage number. The genes of Brachyury, FGF-5, Pax-6, and BMP2 were never expressed. Strikingly, alpha-fetoprotein (alphaFP), HLA ABC, and HLA DR genes were expressed in an earlier passage but not expressed in later passages. Telomerase activity of two HAM lines was discernable upon the third passage. These observations strongly suggest that HAM might be immune-privileged and, thus, advantageous as therapeutic cells.
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