Cell-based therapies hold significant promise for infants at risk for cerebral palsy (CP) from perinatal brain injury (PBI). PBI leading to CP results from multifaceted damage to neural cells. Complex developing neural networks are injured by neural cell damage plus unique perturbations in cell signaling. Given that cell-based therapies can simultaneously repair multiple injured neural components during critical neurodevelopmental windows, these interventions potentially offer efficacy for patients with CP. Currently, the use of cell-based interventions in infants at risk for CP is limited by critical gaps in knowledge. In this review, we will highlight key questions facing the field, including: Who are optimal candidates for treatment? What are the goals of therapeutic interventions? What are the best strategies for agent delivery, including timing, dosage, location, and type? And, how are short- and long-term efficacy reliably tracked? Challenges unique to treating PBI with cell-based therapies, and lessons learned from cell-based therapies in closely related neurological disorders in the mature central nervous system, will be reviewed. Our goal is to update pediatric specialists who may be counseling families about the current state of the field. Finally, we will evaluate how rigor can be increased in the field to ensure the safety and best interests of this vulnerable patient population.
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