Stem cell study in Japan planned for newborns with encephalopathy


A Japanese team plans to launch a clinical study in which stem cells contained in umbilical cord blood will be administered to newborns with encephalopathy to prevent severe complications like brain paralysis from occurring.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry recently approved the study, to be led by Osaka City University Prof. Haruo Shintaku, it was learned Wednesday. The study, which may start as early as November, will cover newborns with encephalopathy caused by a lack of oxygen during labor.

Newborns with the disorder usually receive a head-cooling treatment to limit brain damage. But even if the treatment is performed, about half of such babies will be left with severe disabilities that can include cerebral palsy.

In the clinical study, researchers will intravenously inject babies with stem cells from the mother’s placenta and cord blood, while cooling their heads.

Stem cells are expected to facilitate the regeneration of nerves and blood vessels in the brain. In the United States, there are reports that the novel approach works.

This method is expected to “help strengthen the innate power of regeneration (newborn babies have),” Shintaku said.

The clinical study will be conducted on six newborns at six medical institutions, including Osaka City University and Nagoya University.

The Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation in Kobe will verify whether the therapy is safe and feasible.