Human placental-derived stem cell therapy ameliorates experimental necrotizing enterocolitis.


Weis VG(1), Deal AC(1), Mekkey G(1)(2), Clouse C(1), Gaffley M(1)(3), Whitaker E(1), Peeler CB(1)(4), Weis JA(4)(5)(6), Schwartz MZ(1), Atala A(1).
Author information:
(1)Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
(2)Faculty of Science, Zagazig University, Zagazig, Egypt.
(3)General Surgery, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
(4)School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University, Blacksburg, Virginia.
(5)Department of Biomedical Engineering, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
(6)Comprehensive Cancer Center, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening intestinal disease, is becoming a larger proportionate cause of morbidity and mortality in premature infants. To date, therapeutic options remain elusive. Based on recent cell therapy studies, we investigated the effect of a human placental-derived stem cell (hPSC) therapy on intestinal damage in an experimental NEC rat pup model. NEC was induced in newborn Sprague-Dawley rat pups for 4 days via formula feeding, hypoxia, and LPS. NEC pups received intraperitoneal (ip) injections of either saline or hPSC (NEC-hPSC) at 32 and 56 h into NEC induction. At 4 days, intestinal macroscopic and histological damage, epithelial cell composition, and inflammatory marker expression of the ileum were assessed. Breastfed (BF) littermates were used as controls. NEC pups developed significant bowel dilation and fragility in the ileum. Further, NEC induced loss of normal villi-crypt morphology, disruption of epithelial proliferation and apoptosis, and loss of critical progenitor/stem cell and Paneth cell populations in the crypt. hPSC treatment improved macroscopic intestinal health with reduced ileal dilation and fragility. Histologically, hPSC administration had a significant reparative effect on the villi-crypt morphology and epithelium. In addition to a trend of decreased inflammatory marker expression, hPSC-NEC pups had increased epithelial proliferation and decreased apoptosis when compared with NEC littermates. Further, the intestinal stem cell and crypt niche that include Paneth cells, SOX9+ cells, and LGR5+ stem cells were restored with hPSC therapy. Together, these data demonstrate hPSC can promote epithelial healing of NEC intestinal damage.NEW & NOTEWORTHY These studies demonstrate a human placental-derived stem cell (hPSC) therapeutic strategy for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). In an experimental model of NEC, hPSC administration improved macroscopic intestinal health, ameliorated epithelial morphology, and supported the intestinal stem cell niche. Our data suggest that hPSC are a potential therapeutic approach to attenuate established intestinal NEC damage. Further, we show hPSC are a novel research tool that can be utilized to elucidate critical neonatal repair mechanisms to overcome NEC.