What is it about?

Stem cells are powerful mobile therapeutic agents - with extraordinary potential to treat many human diseases and injuries. This review summarises previous studies testing if stem cells can treat brain damage in babies - in pre-clinical models, and in clinical trials. We found that there were so many differences in what stem cell, how given, how many given and the outcome measures, that it obscured what facets of the treatment were responsible for the positive impacts, and what should be improved on. We also found that for all the studies undertaken, there was a lack of studies focused on treating the types of injury seen in preterm born infants. Millions of babies are born preterm every year and approximately 25% will suffer brain damage, so we need to start to understand how stem cells can be used to treat brain injury in these vulnerable babies.

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Why is it important?

Although there is a general consensus that stem cells can treat brain injury in babies - exactly how we should do this remains unknown. Brain damage in babies is a leading cause of life long disability, with staggering social and economic impacts. We currently have very limited therapeutic options, but it is clear that more co-ordinated work on stem cells across the worlds vast network of stem cells researchers could unlock their therapeutic potential.


Stem cells hold the promise of improved outcomes for babies, their families and in turn our communities. We hope that by highlighting the variability in how stem cells are being tested and the lack of testing to treat preterm born infants this study can inspire additional future studies. These future studies can build on the patterns of previous successes and failures and then can then 'join the dots' and show the way to an effective stem cell treatment paradigm for infant brain injury.

Lab head - Perinatal Brain Injury Lab Bobbi Fleiss
RMIT University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Therapeutic potential of stem cells for preterm infant brain damage: Can we move from the heterogeneity of preclinical and clinical studies to established therapeutics?, Biochemical Pharmacology, April 2021, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2021.114461.
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