Funding: UQ Early Career Researcher Grant

Chief Investigators: Wixey J, Chand K

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is where a baby is unable to grow normally due to receiving inadequate nutrients while developing in the womb. Around 32 million babies are born growth restricted in the world every year. Infants with FGR are at increased risk of adverse outcomes, including cerebral palsy and a wide spectrum of learning disabilities and behavioural disorders. Due to medical advancements, more FGR babies now survive, resulting in an even greater burden of disability. No treatment exists to protect the FGR newborn brain.

Stem cells have emerged as a new hope to treat babies at risk of brain damage and long-term disability. The placenta provides a rich pool of different stem cells and is a safe and ethical source. While there is encouraging data from us and others that stem cells may improve brain outcomes in vulnerable babies, we need to determine which stem cells give the best protection. Is a single stem cell type or a combination of stem cells likely to provide maximum benefit for brain protection? This project will assess if giving 2 stem cell types together, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and endothelial colony forming stem cells (ECFCs) is better than just giving MSCs alone. Our preliminary short-term studies show co-administration (MSC/ECFC) promotes brain repair. However, the majority of studies in newborn babies are trialling MSCs alone. We hypothesise that a combination of MSC/ECFC will provide superior neuroprotection, and we will investigate this in the proposed project, as we want to ensure that we are providing the best possible chance for stem cell therapies to succeed in clinical trials of brain protection for FGR babies.  

Project members

Dr Julie Wixey

Senior Research Fellow
UQ Centre for Clinical Research

Dr Kirat Chand

Research Fellow/Senior Research off
UQ Centre for Clinical Research