In recent years, great interest has been devoted to finding alternative sources for
human stem cells which can be easily isolated, ideally without raising ethical objections.
These stem cells should furthermore have a high proliferation rate and the ability
to differentiate into all three germ layers. Amniotic fluid, ordinarily discarded
as medical waste, is potentially such a novel source of stem cells, and these amniotic
fluid derived stem cells are currently gaining a lot of attention. However, further
information will be required about the properties of these cells before they can be
used for therapeutic purposes. For example, the risk of tumor formation after cell
transplantation needs to be explored. The tumor suppressor protein p53, well known
for its activity in controlling Cell Prolif.eration and cell death in differentiated
cells, has more recently been found to be also active in amniotic fluid stem cells.
In this review, we summarize the major findings about human amniotic fluid stem cells
since their discovery, followed by a brief overview of the important role played by
p53 in embryonic and adult stem cells. In addition, we explore what is known about
p53 in amniotic fluid stem cells to date, and emphasize the need to investigate its
role, particularly in the context of cell tumorigenicity.