Even in the context of modern medicine, infants with fetal and neonatal neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy and myelomeningocele suffer serious long-lasting impairment due to the irreversible neuronal damage. The promotion of neurologically intact survival in patients with perinatal intractable neurological diseases requires the development of novel strategies. One promising strategy involves the use of human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs), which have attracted much attention in recent years and are known to exert anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. In recent years, the therapeutic effects of hAFSCs on fetal-neonatal neurological diseases have become evident as per intense research efforts by our group and others. Specifically, hAFSCs administered into the nasal cavity migrated to the brain and controlled local inflammation in a rodent model of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. In contrast, hAFSCs administered intraperitoneally did not migrate to the brain; they rather formed spheroids in the abdominal cavity, resulting in the suppression of systemic inflammation (including in the brain) via the secretion of anti-inflammatory cytokines in concert with peritoneal macrophages in a rodent model of periventricular leukomalacia. Moreover, studies in a rat model of myelomeningocele suggested that hAFSCs administered in utero secreted hepatocyte growth factor and protected the exposed spinal cord during pregnancy. Importantly, autologous hAFSCs, whose use for fetal-neonatal treatment does not raise ethical issues, can be collected during pregnancy and prepared in sufficient numbers for therapeutic use. This article outlines the results of preclinical research on fetal stem cell therapy, mainly involving hAFSCs, in the context of perinatal neurological diseases.
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