Amniotic membrane: from structure and functions to clinical applications
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- Mamede, A.C., Carvalho, M.J., Abrantes, A.M. et al. Cell Tissue Res (2012) 349: 447. doi:10.1007/s00441-012-1424-6
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Amniotic membrane (AM) or amnion is a thin membrane on the inner side of the fetal placenta; it completely surrounds the embryo and delimits the amniotic cavity, which is filled by amniotic liquid. In recent years, the structure and function of the amnion have been investigated, particularly the pluripotent properties of AM cells, which are an attractive source for tissue transplantation. AM has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and immunological characteristics, as well as anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic features. AM is a promoter of epithelialization and is a non-tumorigenic tissue and its use has no ethical problems. Because of its attractive properties, AM has been applied in several surgical procedures related to ocular surface reconstruction and the genito-urinary tract, skin, head and neck, among others. So far, the best known and most auspicious applications of AM are ocular surface reconstruction, skin applications and tissue engineering. However, AM can also be applied in oncology. In this area, AM can prevent the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cancer cells and consequently interfere with tumour angiogenesis, growth and metastasis.