Cell Therapies and Neuroinflammation

McDonald Group

A baby is born with cerebral palsy every 15 hours. The Cell Therapies and Neuroinflammation group studies the different causes of brain injury with the goal of developing novel stem cell therapies to help babies born with cerebral palsy.


There are many complications that may occur during pregnancy and around the time of birth that can lead to brain injury in newborns. Currently there are limited treatments that prevent brain injury or repair the brain once it has been damaged.

The Cell Therapies and Neuroinflammation group studies how neuroinflammation is a key driver contributing to preterm brain injury and investigates new options for treatment and prevention.

The group’s focus is on the use of stem cells, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for treating perinatal brain injury. The team is investigating

  • How to harness the potential of different stem cell types such as mesenchymal stromal cells, and cells isolated from umbilical cord blood
  • The potential of neural stem cells, which have the greatest potential to replace and repair damage brain tissue and offer a therapy that can regenerate the injured brain.

This research program is underpinned by collaborations with clinical colleagues and industry partnerships investigating if stem cells from umbilical cord blood can reduce and prevent brain injury when given soon after birth. The team is now looking at the optimal way to enhance the efficacy of these cells and develop methods to make enough cells for future clinical use.

“Fifty percent of babies born extremely preterm (under 28 weeks gestation) have a developmental delay at school, and there are limited therapies to help these children. This research is focused on developing novel stem cell therapies that reduce preterm brain injury and offer a brighter future to these children and their families.” Dr Courtney McDonald

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Diseases we research

Areas of focus

  • Developing expanded umbilical cord blood cells for treating preterm brain injury
  • Investigating use of neural stem cells for treatment of cerebral palsy
  • Developing brain organoids as an in vitro model of perinatal brain injury
  • Investigating mesenchymal stromal cells for treating neonatal stroke
  • Understanding the role of neuroinflammation in neonatal stroke
  • Developing a long-term postnatal large animal model of inflammation induced brain injury
  • Developing a large animal model of preterm intraventricular haemorrhage

Research Group Head | Dr Courtney McDonald

Fifty per cent of extremely preterm babies have a developmental delay at school. My research is developing novel stem cell therapies to reduce preterm brain injury and offer these children a brighter future.

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Publication highlights

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