Uncovering how stem cells protect a baby’s brain

Lead researcher

Dr Courtney McDonald

Main finding

We identified that umbilical cord blood cells protect the brain from injury by altering the immune response in the brain and the periphery. We also identified one particular cell type, endothelial progenitor cells which are found in cord blood, that may be a novel cell type that can be used to treat brain injury in babies.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Neurodevelopment and Neuroprotection group


Ms Tayla Penny, Ms Madison Paton, Dr Amy Sutherland, Ms Lakshmi Nekkanti, Dr Tamara Yawno, Dr Margie Castillo-Melendez, A/Prof Michael Fahey, Dr Nicole Jones, Prof Graham Jenkin and A/Prof Suzie Miller

Journal and article title

Most surprising

This work helps us further understand how UCB can protect the brain and helps us understand how to use these cell for treating Cerebral Palsy. It is also exciting that we have shown that endothelial progenitor cells may be a better option than using whole UCB to treat brain injury.

Future implications

We now need to understand the long term effects of endothelial progenitor cells for protecting the brain, and confirm that they are better than UCB. This could change the direction of future cell therapies used for cerebral palsy.

Disease/health impact

Cerebral Palsy