Comparative Analysis of Co-Cultured Amniotic Cell-Conditioned Media with Cell-Free Amniotic Fluid Reveals Differential Effects on Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Myofibroblast Activation

Biomedicines. 2022 Sep 5;10(9):2189. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10092189.


Myofibroblast activation is a cellular response elicited by a variety of physiological or pathological insults whereby cells initiate a coordinated response intended to eradicate the insult and then revert back to a basal state. However, an underlying theme in various disease states is persistent myofibroblast activation that fails to resolve. Based on multiple observations, we hypothesized that the secreted factors harvested from co-culturing amniotic stem cells might mimic the anti-inflammatory state that cell-free amniotic fluid (AF) elicits. We optimized an amnion epithelial and amniotic fluid cell co-culture system, and tested this hypothesis in the context of myofibroblast activation. However, we discovered that co-cultured amniotic cell conditioned media (coACCM) and AF have opposing effects on myofibroblast activation: coACCM activates the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stimulates gene expression patterns associated with myofibroblast activation, while AF does the opposite. Intriguingly, extracellular vesicles (EVs) purified from AF are necessary and sufficient to activate EMT and inflammatory gene expression patterns, while the EV-depleted AF potently represses these responses. In summary, these data indicate that coACCM stimulates myofibroblast activation, while AF represses it. We interpret these findings to suggest that coACCM, AF, and fractionated AF represent unique biologics that elicit different cellular responses that are correlated with a wide variety of pathological states, and therefore could have broad utility in the clinic and the lab.

Keywords: amniotic fluid; epithelial–mesenchymal transition; myofibroblast; regenerative medicine; stem cells.