Monash Newborn Research success at Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Grants

Monash Newborn Research has been awarded more than $360,000 by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance for exciting new therapies for two important conditions - prematurity and neonatal seizures.

Prematurity affects 1 in 10 babies worldwide, and extremely premature birth (born before 28 weeks gestation) can lead to devastating outcomes in some babies. While survival rates of these infants have improved over the last few decades, many infants are at risk of long term brain complications and adverse development, including cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability of childhood and currently no cure exists for this lifelong condition.

Dr Atul Malhotra and his team of researchers at the Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute of Medical Research including Prof Suzie Miller, Prof Graham Jenkin and Lindsay Zhou (PhD student) and Prof Iona Novak from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, have done extensive pre-clinical research into the capability of cord blood cell therapies (stem like cells derived from cord blood). The team is now moving this into a world first clinical trial - CORD-SAFE.

Cord blood from extremely premature infants will be collected at birth, processed and vital cells will be transfused back into the baby in the second week of life.

Dr Malhotra said, "We are about to start this world-first cell therapy feasibility trial for extremely premature infants, and the support from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance will be crucial to provide us with resources to produce the information required to progress this therapy into a larger trial in the future".

In another new trial, again informed by preclinical work, Prof Rod Hunt and researchers at the Ritchie centre, Hudson Institute of Medical Research including Dr Tamara YawnoA/Prof Michael FaheyProf Suzie Miller and Dr Atul Malhotra plan to test a new medication (Ganaxolone) as a treatment for neonatal seizures. This world first trial known as GAINs will test the feasibility and efficacy of this drug in newborn babies with seizures.

Prof Hunt said, "Neonatal seizures can be a serious sign of brain injury in newborn babies. Current therapies to treat these seizures are not always effective and can have their own side effects. This grant from the CPA will help us translate a promising new therapy, that was developed at The Ritchie Centre, for these seizures".