Background: While fetal repair of myelomeningocele (MMC) revolutionized management, many children are still unable to walk independently. Preclinical studies demonstrated that research-grade placental mesenchymal stromal cells (PMSCs) prevent paralysis in fetal ovine MMC, however this had not been replicated with clinical-grade cells that could be used in an upcoming human clinical trial. We tested clinical-grade PMSCs seeded on an extracellular matrix (PMSC-ECM) in the gold standard fetal ovine model of MMC. Methods: Thirty-five ovine fetuses underwent MMC defect creation at a median of 76 days gestational age, and defect repair at 101 days gestational age with application of clinical-grade PMSC-ECM (3 × 105 cells/cm2, n = 12 fetuses), research-grade PMSC-ECM (3 × 105 cells/cm2, three cell lines with n = 6 (Group 1), n = 6 (Group 2), and n = 3 (Group 3) fetuses, respectively) or ECM without PMSCs (n = 8 fetuses). Three normal lambs underwent no surgical interventions. The primary outcome was motor function measured by the Sheep Locomotor Rating scale (SLR, range 0: complete paralysis to 15: normal ambulation) at 24 h of life. Correlation of lumbar spine large neuron density with SLR was evaluated. Results: Clinical-grade PMSC-ECM lambs had significantly better motor function than ECM-only lambs (SLR 14.5 vs. 6.5, p = 0.04) and were similar to normal lambs (14.5 vs. 15, p = 0.2) and research-grade PMSC-ECM lambs (Group 1: 14.5 vs. 15, p = 0.63; Group 2: 14.5 vs. 14.5, p = 0.86; Group 3: 14.5 vs. 15, p = 0.50). Lumbar spine large neuron density was strongly correlated with motor function (r = 0.753, p<0.001). Conclusions: Clinical-grade placental mesenchymal stromal cells seeded on an extracellular matrix rescued ambulation in a fetal ovine myelomeningocele model. Lumbar spine large neuron density correlated with motor function, suggesting a neuroprotective effect of the PMSC-ECM in prevention of paralysis. A first-in-human clinical trial of PMSCs in human fetal myelomeningocele repair is underway.
- Cellular therapy
- Fetal surgery
- Spina bifida
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health