The group Prenatal Medicine of the DBMR / University Hospital Bern has its research focus on two main areas of translational research:
The development of stem cell transplantation as a therapy for perinatal hypoxic of preterm birth-related brain injury in the fetus and newborn is our research focus. We investigate the potential of human umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells for their neural differentiation and as a cell graft in perinatal brain injury. Mesenchymal stem cells derived the tissue of the umbilical cord of neonates have a specifically high cell plasticity. The prenatal development of these stem cells und their plasticity is investigated on a functional, morphological and the molecular biology level. We showed that stem cells derived from the umbilical cords’ tissue of preterm births have an enhanced expression of markers for neural progenitor cells in the neurosphere stage and therefore have a great potential to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Extracellular vesicles are small vesicles secreted by the cells and contain proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids (e.g. microRNA), which they transfer from cell to cell. The administration of extracellular vesicles derived from mesenchymal stem cells was shown to promote neuroregeneration in a variety of disease models. Their cargo, specifically micro RNAs (miRNAs), have gained increasing interest for their regulatory functions in brain development and neurological disorders. Another research focus is on the development of a therapy for disorders of newborns based on preimplantation factor, which plays an important role in the embryonic development. We test the therapy with stem cells, extracellular vesicles produced by them and with preimplantation factor in a variety of in vitro and in vivo models of perinatal brain injury. Noninvasive protocols, like the intranasal application have been successfully evaluated by the group. Our specific interest is in the mechanisms leading to the injury and to neuroregeneration in order to develop an optimal therapy for perinatal brain injury. Standardized sensorimotor behavioral test show the effect of stem cell transplantation on brain function.
A further project is the study of transplacental transfer of drugs, infection markers, infectious agents or antibodies, and the molecular mechanisms of placental disease using the in-vitro placental perfusion model.
In our preeclampsia research, we investigate the role of specific transport mechanisms in the placenta in the development of preeclampsia and test possible therapeutic approaches in cell culture and transgenic animal models. We focus on the glucose and uric acid transport, since both play an essential role in preeclampsia. The mechanisms leading to the so called “fetal programming” are is of special interest, since it leads to an increased incidence of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases after a intrauterine preeclampsia exposition.
The reasearch is supported by the following institutions: Swiss National Science Foundation, Eagle Foundation, Research Fund of the University Hospital Bern / Inselspital, CryoSave Switzerland; Gottfried and Julia Bangerter-Rhyner Foundation and other foundations.