USA: Spinal Bifida Stem Cell Injection Might Prevent Myelomeningocele
A new study provides compelling evidence of how an injection of human amniotic fluid stem cells can be used to protect the spinal cord of a fetus from myelomeningocele (MMC). The finding could lead to a new strategy for treating this debilitating birth defect.
Durham/USA — The most severe form of spinal bifida, myelomeningocele results when the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. It can leave a child with many disabilities, including partial or full paralysis, difficulty with bowel and bladder control, hydrocephalus and developmental delay.
Despite the poor prognosis associated with MMC, the options for prenatal treatments were still limited, said the study’s lead investigator, Daigo Ochiai, M.D., Ph.D., of the Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan. Recently, however, cellular therapy delivered to the fetus while in the womb has shown promise for treating birth defects.
This led the researchers to investigate whether human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) might be used to treat fetal MMC, especially since fetal MMC can be diagnosed during an early stage of pregnancy and this gives us an opportunity to isolate hAFSCs from those patients and use them for in utero therapy.
Pregnant rats were treated to induce fetal MMC, then injected with hAFSCs in each amniotic cavity. Overall, the team examined 116 rat fetuses with MMC. Results showed that the hAFSCs exerted their effect on fetal MMC via two different mechanisms: by migrating to the lesions and covering the exposed spinal cords, and by secreting hepatocyte growth factor to protect neural elements and promote neural regeneration.
Yushi Abe, M.D., also of Keio University School of Medicine, was first author of the study. He noted that MMC is a disease that causes many disorders, but there was no effective treatment. This study shows that in utero therapy with hAFSCs may be an innovative treatment for fetal MMC. As such, the scientists would like to continue research for human clinical application in the future.