Brain injuries and stem cells

Protecting unborn babies with fetal growth restriction and preterm infants from brain injury thanks to umbilical cord stem cells

A group of researchers at the Hudson Institute in Australia recently published a study in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy on the use of stem cells extracted from umbilical cord for the treatment of children with fetal growth restriction and preterm infants.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the therapeutic potential of cord stem cell treatments to prevent or modulate brain injury factors in premature or unborn babies with fetal growth restriction.

Fetal growth restriction is a condition where the unborn child is smaller than expected. It can occur at any time during pregnancy and can cause loss or damage to brain development, cerebral palsy, autism, learning and behavioral difficulties of the baby. This condition can also cause preterm births, which in turn put the proper brain development of the baby at risk.

The researchers involved in the study demonstrated how the use of umbilical cord stem cells could alleviate brain damage caused by fetal growth restriction and preterm birth. The stem cell treatment they performed in phase I of the trial significantly reduced neuroinflammation, oxidative stress and cerebrovascular resistance, thus attesting to the neuroprotective and neuroreparative properties of umbilical cord stem cells.

The results of this research are very encouraging with regard to the potential for clinical conversion, as well as being the first study to demonstrate that umbilical cord stem cells are neuroprotective for the brain of preterm infants and unborn babies with growth restriction.

Neonatal therapy with stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood is already being tested on preterm and term babies with brain injuries, demonstrating its feasibility and safety. Therefore, the Australian research team «now proposes that the results of this study lay the foundation for a novel therapeutic option, using cord blood stem cells as an early intervention therapy for these vulnerable babies».

Dr. A. Malhotra, who leads the project, concludes that «cell therapy is now ready for translation to clinical trials and this study provides further evidence of the potential benefit of stem cells in preterm infants».

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