Premature babies often have trouble digesting food due to their ill-prepared gut. About 10% of preemie babies will develop necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammation that can lead to death of the tissue in the intestine causing infection. While breastmilk can reduce the risk of the condition, many babies will require surgery to remove the dead tissue.
“We’re able to prolong survival by quite a long way. What appears to be happening is a direct effect on calming inflammation and also stimulating resident stem cells in the gut to be more efficient at repairing the intestines.” –Dr Simon Eaton, from the Institute of Child Health at University College London
Stem cells are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, but this is the first time amniotic fluid stem cells have shown that they can repair damaged intestines.