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World-First Trial: Cord Blood Offers Hope for Extremely Preterm Babies’ Brain Development

World-First Trial: Cord Blood Offers Hope for Extremely Preterm Babies’ Brain Development

July 10, 2024
Dr. Lana du Plessis
July 10, 2024
Dr. Lana du Plessis

Extremely preterm babies, born before 28 weeks gestation, face a high risk of brain damage and long-term developmental issues. In a world-first trial, Australian researchers are exploring a promising solution: using a baby’s own umbilical cord blood cells to potentially protect their brain development. This innovative approach, called the CORD SAFE study, is investigating the safety and feasibility of this stem cell therapy, offering a glimmer of hope for these vulnerable newborns.

Stem cell therapy to protect extremely preterm infants’ brain development

In an attempt to lessen the high risk of brain damage and incapacity associated with extremely preterm babies, Australian researchers have made the first attempts to obtain umbilical cord blood cells from these babies. The CORD SAFE study is investigating the feasibility and safety of administering autologous (their own) cord blood cells to these extremely premature infants. The study is nearing completion phase, with results likely by the end of the year.

They took cord blood from 38 infants born before 28 weeks gestation. Babies born extremely preterm (<28 weeks) have a high chance of long-term developmental issues, including cerebral palsy, and learning and behavioral issues.

Of the babies included in the trial, 21 were male and 17 female. Twenty-four (63.1%) were delivered via caesarean section, and 11 (28.9%) were a multiple birth. The average age of the baby in this study was 26 weeks gestation, and the average birth weight was 761.5 grams.

The researchers were able to collect an average of 19 ml/kg of cord blood from these preterm babies, which is similar to term babies by body weight. The procedure was successful in 72% of cases.

Under the direction of Professor Atul Malhotra, the trial was carried out at Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Lindsay Zhou won the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Award from the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) and the Mont Liggins Award from the Perinatal Research Society for his research on cord blood cell treatment.

World-first cord blood trial helps unborn stroke victims

When unborn babies suffer a stroke, the potential damage can be life-long, so Hudson Institute of Medical Research is aiming to change that using the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood (UCB).

By harnessing the stem cells contained in umbilical cord blood (UCB), the Hudson Institute of Medical Research hopes to repair the potentially life-long damage that can result from a stroke in fetuses.

Using UCB stem cells, researchers from Monash Children’s Hospital, Hudson Institute, and Monash University have started a trial to try to stop the effects of prenatal stroke and give newborns the best chance of living healthy lives.

Together with industry partner Cell Care, the experiment is made feasible by Hudson Institute’s newly established cell treatments capacity, the first of its kind in Melbourne’s southeast. According to Associate Professor Atul Malhotra, it might transform the game.

“In this STELLAR trial, stem cells from a baby’s own cord blood are collected at birth and re-introduced to the bloodstream in the early weeks of life, and that type of treatment is only possible thanks to the technology we now have access to here at Hudson Institute.”

In conclusion, as we reflect on the remarkable strides made in medical science through the use of cord blood, we urge expecting parents to consider the invaluable opportunity of storing their baby’s umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cells at birth. By doing so, not only are they safeguarding the health of their child but also contributing to the advancement of medicine and potentially saving lives. Let’s embrace this empowering choice for the well-being of our loved ones and the greater good of humanity.

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