Stem cell niche refers to the microenvironment where stem cells reside in living organisms. Several elements define the niche and regulate stem cell characteristics, such as stromal support cells, gap junctions, soluble factors, extracellular matrix proteins, blood vessels and neural inputs. In the last years, different studies demonstrated the presence of cKit+ cells in human and murine amniotic fluid, which have been defined as amniotic fluid stem (AFS) cells. Firstly, we characterized the murine cKit+ cells present both in the amniotic fluid and in the amnion. Secondly, to analyze the AFS cell microenvironment, we injected murine YFP+ embryonic stem cells (ESC) into the amniotic fluid of E13.5 wild type embryos. Four days after transplantation we found that YFP + sorted cells maintained the expression of pluripotency markers and that ESC adherent to the amnion were more similar to original ESC in respect to those isolated from the amniotic fluid. Moreover, cytokines evaluation and oxygen concentration analysis revealed in this microenvironment the presence of factors that are considered key regulators in stem cell niches. This is the first indication that AFS cells reside in a microenvironment that possess specific characteristics able to maintain stemness of resident and exogenous stem cells.
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