Funding boost to develop lung treatment for premature babies

Associate Professor Rebecca Lim has been awarded $300,000 from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund to progress her laboratory’s research into a new regenerative medicine, to treat an incurable chronic lung disease affecting very and extremely premature babies. The therapy could also be used for other respiratory conditions, including COVID-19.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) affects babies born between 28 and 32 weeks, or less than 28 weeks’ gestation. A/Prof Lim’s team is at the forefront of therapies using human amnion epithelial cells-cells from the amniotic sac-for BPD. However, bioactive nanoparticles released by these amniotic cells, called amniotic exosomes, are equally as effective but cheaper to manufacture, store, transport and use. “We now propose to develop this disruptive technology, namely amniotic exosome therapeutics,” A/Prof Lim said.

A/Prof Lim said her laboratory recently completed a study demonstrating that amniotic exosomes restore lung architecture and function in experimental BPD. She said her team is developing cell lines for scalable production of amniotic exosomes for BPD and other respiratory conditions, including COVID-19.

What are amniotic epithelial cells?

Amniotic epithelial cells (amnion cells) are from the amniotic sac which surrounds a baby during pregnancy. They have stem cell-like properties and can grow into many cell types. Most importantly, they have potent effects on inflammation and tissue damage.

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