Improving brain oxygen levels in babies using stem cell treatment

January 2017December 2019
Children’s Hospital Foundation

Chief Investigators:Colditz P, Khosrotehrani K, Bjorkman ST, Fisk N, Lingwood B, Wixey J

Synopsis: Babies who have suffered a complication during birth are at a high risk of brain injury. About 15-28% develop cerebral palsy and around 25% develop permanent motor, cognitive and sensory neurodevelopmental disabilities. This may be due to inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain. There is a critical need to develop more effective treatments to protect the brain in the days immediately after birth. The Perinatal Research Centre is investigating a new treatment to protect baby’s brains. Their exciting preliminary results suggest that if this treatment is used immediately after birth it will lead to better brain oxygen levels and reduced brain inflammation. These combinations should result in improving brain development and neurodevelopmental outcomes in these babies.

Stem cell therapy: Healthy blood vessels are important for to the brain to receive adequate oxygen levels. In the brain injured baby, blood vessels are disrupted and therefore oxygen levels are reduced. Endothelial stem cells play a major role in growth of blood vessels in the brain. With this increase in blood vessels, from stem cells treatment, the brain would receive improved oxygen levels and thus improve brain outcomes in these babies.

Our novel project uses the baby’s own placenta to source the stem cells. The use of human cells has the merit of being immediately relevant to translate to clinical trials.

New knowledge: In our preliminary pre-clinical studies, we have established that the human placental stem cells do not cause any acute reaction and that the stem cells survive and home to the ischemic brain.

Project members

Professor Paul Colditz

Deputy Director & Affiliate Professor
UQ Centre for Clinical Research
Perinatal Research Centre
Group Head, Clinical Neurosciences Laboratory
Head of School
School of Clinical Medicine

Dr Tracey Bjorkman

Senior Research Fellow
UQ Centre for Clinical Research
Affiliate Snr Research Fellow
School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr Julie Wixey

Research Fellow
UQ Centre for Clinical Research

Dr Kirat Chand

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
UQ Centre for Clinical Research