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.