Preterm umbilical cord blood derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells protect preterm white matter brain development against hypoxia-ischemia

Jingang Li, Tamara Yawno, Amy E. Sutherland, Shanti Gurung, Madison Paton, Courtney McDonald, Abhilasha Tiwari, Yen Pham, Margie Castillo-Melendez, Graham Jenkin, Suzanne L. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Preterm infants are at high risk for white matter injury and subsequent neurodevelopmental impairments. Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC) have anti-inflammatory/immunomodulatory actions and are of interest for neural repair in adults and newborns. This study examined the neuroprotective effects of allogeneic MSC, derived from preterm umbilical cord blood (UCB), in a preterm sheep model of white matter injury. Methods: Quad-lineage differentiation, clonogenicity and self-renewal ability of UCB-derived MSC were confirmed. Chronically instrumented fetal sheep (0.7 gestation) received either 25 min hypoxia-ischemia (HI) to induce preterm brain injury, or sham-HI. Ten million MSC, or saline, were administered iv to fetuses at 12 h after HI. Fetal brains were collected 10d after HI for histopathology and immunocytochemistry. Results: HI induced white matter injury, as indicated by a reduction in CNPase-positive myelin fiber density. HI also induced microglial activation (Iba-1) in the periventricular white matter and internal capsule (P <.05 vs control). MSC administration following HI preserved myelination (P <.05), modified microglial activation, and promoted macrophage migration (CD163) and cell proliferation (Ki-67) within cerebral white matter (P <.05). Cerebral CXCL10 concentration was increased following MSC administration (P <.05), which was likely associated with macrophage migration and cell proliferation within the preterm brain. Additionally, MSC administration reduced systemic pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα at 3d post-HI (P <.05). Conclusions: UCB-derived MSC therapy preserved white matter brain structure following preterm HI, mediated by a suppression of microglial activation, promotion of macrophage migration and acceleration of self-repair within the preterm brain. UCB-derived MSC are neuroprotective, acting via peripheral and cerebral anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Cell transplantation
  • Cytokines
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Oligodendrocytes
  • Stem cell expansion
  • Umbilical cord blood

Cite this