Stem Cells Can Trigger Neurologic Improvement in Newborns with Brain Injury

Every year, thousands of infants are born before term, leading to a host of health problems.  The primary of these is neonatal brain injury.  Even with advancements in medical technology brain damage continues to affect many infants born prematurely every year. 

The damage in these infants can result in long-term effects that range from cognitive disabilities and attention deficit to socialization deficits.  These effects can be seen in between 25% and 50% of infants who are born before term and have a low birth weight.  Additionally, motor deficits are seen in up to 10 percent of these infants.  Infants who are born before term struggle not only with their low birth weight that places them at risk for infections, but also with neonatal brain injury.

Now, researchers are reporting on the results of a new study that shows some neurologic improvement when stem cells are injected into rats with a brain injury.  The study is titled Early Intracranial Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy after Perinatal Rat Brain Damage and the results of the study were presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting in Dallas recently. 

The researchers reported that they noticed some amount of neurologic improvement when they transplanted human placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells into rats who had suffered birth-related brain injury.  According to the researchers, the stem cells were introduced into the lateral ventricles of neonatal rats with brain injury.  The brain damage in the rats mimicked the brain injury that is normally seen in infants with low birth weight.

They found that the cells when injected into the rats not only survived, but also successfully migrated to the rat’s brain.  The researchers in their assessment have confirmed a neuroprotective effect of the mesenchymal stem cell transplant.

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