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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The Effect of Gestational Age on Extra-Fetal Hematopoietic and Mesenchymal Stem Cell Populations

Principal Investigator: Assistant Research Professor Cheryl Walker, M.D.

Research funding: UC Davis Academic Federation


Birth weight and period of gestation are the two most important predictors of an infant’s subsequent health and survival. Infants born too small or too soon have a much greater risk of death and both short-term and long-term disability than those born at term or with birth weights of 2,500 grams or more. Of these children, more than 10% will sustain neurological injuries leading to significant learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation, with very low birth weight infants having an even higher incidence of brain injury. Rates continue to rise, and obstetric care providers do not understand the etiology of most of these births. Black race, low socioeconomic status, older maternal age, and previous preterm delivery have been consistently related to the preterm delivery of low-birth-weight infants. Maternal systemic and uterine infections have been associated with a subset of preterm birth. Newer data suggests that maternal medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, appear responsible for the maternal age contribution to preterm birth.


In this pilot study, we propose to develop preliminary data to support application for broader funding to study the influence of gestational age on the numbers and functional characteristics of hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells (HSC and MSC, respectively) derived from cord blood, amniotic membranes, umbilical cord matrix and placental tissues. Ultimately, we want to explore how these parameters relate to the development of both hematopoietic and immune systems and serve as potential mechanisms underlying differences in these cell populations that could be related to the etiology of and potential preventive strategies for preterm birth.