Intrauterine inflammation is a significant cause of injury to the developing fetal brain. Using a preterm fetal sheep model of in utero infection, we asked whether human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs) were able to reduce inflammation-induced fetal brain injury. Surgery was undertaken on pregnant sheep at ~105 days gestation (term is 147 days) for implantation of vascular catheters. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 150 ng/kg bolus) or saline was administered IV at 109, 110, and 111 days. Sixty million fluorescent-labeled hAECs were administered at 110, 111, and 112 days gestation via the brachial artery catheter. Brains were collected at 114 days for histological assessment. hAECs were observed within the cortex, white matter, and hippocampus. Compared to control lambs, LPS administration was associated with significant and widespread fetal brain inflammation and injury as evidenced by increased number of activated microglia in the periventricular white matter (p = 0.02), increased pyknosis, cell degeneration (p = 0.01), and a nonsignificant trend of fewer oligodendrocytes in the subcortical and periventricular white matter. Administration of hAECs to LPS-treated animals was associated with a significant mitigation in both inflammation and injury as evidenced by fewer activated microglia (p = 0.03) and pyknotic cells (p = 0.03), significantly more oligodendrocytes in the subcortical and periventricular white matter (p = 0.01 and 0.02, respectively), and more myelin basic protein-positive cells within the periventricular white matter (p = 0.02). hAEC administration to fetal sheep exposed to multiple doses of LPS dampens the resultant fetal inflammatory response and mitigates associated brain injury.
- Brain development
- Fetal sheep
- Human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs)
- Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)