Regenerative strategies for the injured neonatal brain

Regenerative strategies for the injured neonatal brain

We focus on brain injury in the neonatal period which is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity in the newborn.

Will MSC treatment boost myelination (red, MBP) in brains of rats exposed to fetal growth restriction as a model for encephalopathy of prematurity? Deep cortical layers are stained for CTIP2 (green). Courtesy of Judit Alhama Riba.

Current treatments to combat hypoxic-ischemic brain injury or encephalopathy of prematurity (i.e. brain injury due to extreme preterm birth) are very scarce. Therefore we are dedicated to develop new therapeutic neuroprotective and neuroregenerative strategies to improve outcome for these smallest of patients. We take a true bench-to-bedside approach by using clinically relevant cell- and animal-models to closely mimic brain injury in the human newborn and to test new treatment options via clinically applicable routes. We work in close collaboration with the clinical Department of Neonatology.

Illustration of intranasal application of mesenchymal stem cells to support endogenous neuroregeneration after neonatal brain injury.

At present, one of our key focus points is developing intranasal mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy from bench-to-bedside for neonatal brain injury. We study the migration of MSCs from the nose into damaged brain lesions, we focus on optimization strategies for cell-based therapy, and we explore mechanisms of neurorepair and stimulation of endogenous stem cell niches. Our previous research in this field has led to the first-in-human clinical trial in which safety of intranasal MSC application in term neonates with perinatal stroke has been explored (PASSIoN). We are currently also developing this therapy for encephalopathy of prematurity in animal models for fetal inflammation and fetal growth restriction.

Differentiation of neural stem cells into neuronal networks (red, betaIII-tubulin) in vitro is stimulated by mesenchymal stem cell-secreted factors. DAPI as nuclear counterstain. Courtesy of Sara De Palma.

Besides MSCs, we also explore the use of neural stem cells and the use of crucial growth factors like IGF1 as regenerative strategies to improve neurodevelopment after neonatal brain injury. Furthermore, we are aiming for combination therapies with stem cells and nutrition (see also the research line Nutraceuticals for the developing brain).

Our research laboratory is located in the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital.

Key publications uitklapper, klik om te openen

Funding & grants uitklapper, klik om te openen

  • ZonMw Vici (2023): NEOREPAIR: unravelling the cellular and molecular mechanisms of mesenchymal stem cell-driven repair in the injured newborn brain
  • Dr. C.J. Vaillant Fund (2021): Stamceltherapie om Zenuwnetwerken te Herstellen bij Pasgeborenen
  • EU (H2020) (2020): PREMSTEM: Brain injury in the premature born infant: stem cell regeneration research network 
  • EU (Marie Sklodowska-Curie COFUND) RESCUE project (2018): Development of novel protective and regenerative treatment strategies for brain injury in the preterm and fullterm neonate.
  • WKZ Research Fund (2017): Advances in cell-based therapy for the injured newborn brain: Optimizing nurture, habitat and momentum of mesenchymal stem cells
  • Brain Foundation the Netherlands (2016), the Next Step program: Intranasal growth factor treatment: a novel strategy to repair the injured preterm brain
  • Brain Foundation the Netherlands (2014), fellowship: Mesenchymal stem cell therapy to repair white matter injury in the preterm neonatal brain: boosting oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination
  • NWO (ZonMw TAS) (2011): Adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) to regenerate the neonatal brain

In the media uitklapper, klik om te openen

Contact uitklapper, klik om te openen

PI's: Cora Nijboer and Caroline de Theije

Dr. Cora Nijboer, personal profile page
LinkedIn page, Cora on Twitter

Dr. Caroline de Theije, personal profile page
LinkedIn page

Thank you for your review!

Has this information helped you?

Please tell us why, so that we can improve our website.

Working at UMC Utrecht





Practical uses cookies

This website uses cookies This website displays videos from, among others, YouTube. Such parties place cookies (third-party cookies). If you do not want these cookies, you can indicate that here. We also place cookies ourselves to improve our site.

Read more about the cookie policy

Agree No, rather not