Human amniotic fluid stem cells are able to form embryoid body-like aggregates which performs specific functions: morphological evidences

Histochem Cell Biol. 2020 Nov 21. doi: 10.1007/s00418-020-01940-3. Online ahead of print.


Human second trimester Amniotic Fluid Stem Cells (hAFSCs) harbour the potential to differentiate into cells of each of the three germ layers and to form Embryoid Body (EB)-like aggregates, without inducing teratoma formation and with no ethical concerns. However, in spite of the number of reports on hAFSCs-EBs and their characterization, a thorough evaluation in light and electron microscopy of morphological and morphometric features of hAFSCs-EBs development in vitro has not been reported yet. Apart from a superficial layer of epithelial-like flat cells, displaying rare microvilli on the free surface, hAFSCs-EBs enclose inner material, abundant in vesicles and secretory granules, showing early characteristics of connective extracellular matrix dispersed among different types of inner cells. The observation of a number of microvesicles mainly represented by microparticles and, to a lower extent, by exosomes indicates the presence of a complex cellular communication system within this structure. According to morphological analysis, after 7 days of in vitro culture hAFSCs-EB appears as a well-organized corpuscle, sufficiently young to be a carrier of stemness and at the same time, when appropriately stimulated, able to differentiate. In fact, 7-day hAFSCs-EB represents itself an initial cellular transformation towards a specialized structure both in recording and in providing different stimuli from the surrounding environment, organizing structures and cells towards a differentiation fate.

Keywords: Cell morphology; Embryoid body; Human second trimester amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs); Microscopy; Microvesicles; Morphometry.