Molecular signature of amniotic fluid derived stem cells in the fetal sheep model of myelomeningocele

Gabriele Ceccarelli, Enrico Pozzo, Federico Scorletti, Laura Benedetti, Gabriella Cusella, Flavio Lorenzo Ronzoni, Vardine Sahakyan, Elisa Zambaiti, Maria Chiara Mimmi, Valeria Calcaterra, Jan Deprest, Maurilio Sampaolesi, Gloria Pelizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Abnormal cord development results in spinal cord damage responsible for myelomeningocele (MMC). Amniotic fluid-derived stem cells (AFSCs) have emerged as a potential candidate for applications in regenerative medicine. However, their differentiation potential is largely unknown as well as the molecular signaling orchestrating the accurate spinal cord development. Fetal lambs underwent surgical creation of neural tube defect and its subsequent repair. AFSCs were isolated, cultured and characterized at the 12th (induction of MMC), 16th (repair of malformation), and 20th week of gestation (delivery). After performing open hysterectomy, AF collections on fetuses with sham procedures at the same time points as the MMC creation group have been used as controls. Cytological analyses with the colony forming unit assay, XTT and alkaline-phosphatase staining, qRT-PCR gene expression analyses (normalized with aged match controls) and NMR metabolomics profiling were performed. Here we show for the first time the metabolomics and molecular signature variation in AFSCs isolated in the sheep model of MMC, which may be used as diagnostic tools for the in utero identification of the neural tube damage. Intriguingly, PAX3 gene involved in the murine model for spina bifida is modulated in AFSCs reaching the peak of expression at 16 weeks of gestation, 4 weeks after the intervention. Our data strongly suggest that AFSCs reorganize their differentiation commitment in order to generate PAX3-expressing progenitors to counteract the MMC induced in the sheep model. The gene expression signature of AFSCs highlights the plasticity of these cells reflecting possible alterations of embryonic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1521-1527
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Amniotic fluid derived stem cells
  • Gene signature
  • Key words Myelomeningocele
  • Sheep model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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  • Cite this

    Ceccarelli, G., Pozzo, E., Scorletti, F., Benedetti, L., Cusella, G., Ronzoni, F. L., Sahakyan, V., Zambaiti, E., Mimmi, M. C., Calcaterra, V., Deprest, J., Sampaolesi, M., & Pelizzo, G. (2015). Molecular signature of amniotic fluid derived stem cells in the fetal sheep model of myelomeningocele. Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 50(9), 1521-1527.