by Sean V. Murphy, Rebecca Lim, Philip Heraud, Marian Cholewa, Mark Le Gros, Martin D. de Jonge, Daryl L. Howard, David Paterson, Courtney McDonald, Anthony Atala, Graham Jenkin, Euan M. Wallace
Cystic fibrosis, an autosomal recessive disorder caused by a mutation in a gene encoding the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), remains a leading cause of childhood respiratory morbidity and mortality. The respiratory consequences of cystic fibrosis include the generation of thick, tenacious mucus that impairs lung clearance, predisposing the individual to repeated and persistent infections, progressive lung damage and shortened lifespan. Currently there is no cure for cystic fibrosis. With this in mind, we investigated the ability of human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs) to express functional CFTR. We found that hAECs formed 3-dimensional structures and expressed the CFTR gene and protein after culture in Small Airway Growth Medium (SAGM). We also observed a polarized CFTR distribution on the membrane of hAECs cultured in SAGM, similar to that observed in polarized airway cells in vivo. Further, hAECs induced to express CFTR possessed functional iodide/chloride (I-/Cl-) ion channels that were inhibited by the CFTR-inhibitor CFTR-172, indicating the presence of functional CFTR ion channels. These data suggest that hAECs may be a promising source for the development of a cellular therapy for cystic fibrosis.