Comparing the characteristics of fetal and maternal mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the human term placenta

Human placenta is rich in mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC), with their origin widely presumed fetal. However, we found that in cultured placental MSC, a high frequency of maternal cell contamination occurred. We determined isolation conditions to yield fetal and separately maternal MSC during ex vivo expansion from human term placenta. Comparison of MSC populations within the same placenta confirmed fetal to be smaller, more osteogenic and proliferative than maternal MSC. The next step is to thoroughly compare fetal and maternal placenta-derived MSC for characteristics including gene expression, in vitro differentiation and in vivo disease models.

Techniques: placental MSC isolation, cell culture, microscopy, microarray gene expression analysis, and in vitro and in vivo cell assays.

Examining the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell treatments for a rodent model of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy arises from damage to the immature brain, possibly caused by a lack of oxygen and blood supply around the time of birth. It is the single greatest cause of childhood disability, impacting than 1 in 500 young Australians. Using a rat model of brain damage in the premature infant (P3 neonatal rat hypoxic ischemia model), we will investigate whether new treatments, placenta-derived human or rat mesenchymal stem cell therapy alone or in combination with growth factors can repair brain damage and prevent long term problems like cerebral palsy.

Techniques: animal handling, preparing and analysing brain samples for histology, PCR, cell culture, immunohistochemistry, microscopy.

• Examining the role of hormones in growth and bone health in children with cerebral palsy

Despite cerebral palsy (CP) being the most common physical disability of childhood it remains under-researched. Based on results from a small number of existing studies we predict that many children with CP will have low levels of hormones required for normal development. These low levels may contribute to the poor growth of muscle/bones and brains of children with CP despite adequate nutrition and physiotherapy. Measuring levels of key hormones in children with CP will provide results to develop new therapies.

Techniques: compile and statistically analyse a variety of clinical data from a cohort study of children with cerebral palsy.