Diana Farmer helped pioneer in utero surgical treatment for spina bifida and prove that it can improve brain development otherwise threatened by the disabling congenital condition.

Now she and other UC Davis researchers hope that combining that in utero surgery with stem cell therapy may further improve motor function in spina bifida patients and help them walk independently.

Their study is one of several research efforts under way or planned by the UC Davis Fetal Care and Treatment Center team.

After investigating different stem cell types and the best way to deliver them in utero, Farmer’s research team discovered a stem cell-based therapy that reduces the mobility issues of spina bifida in an animal model.

A grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine allows Farmer and chief collaborator Aijun Wang, co-director of the UC Davis Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory, to optimize the stem cell product, validate its effectiveness, determine optimal dosing and confirm its preliminary safety in preparation for human clinical trials.

Other Fetal Care and Treatment Center research initiatives are expected to address:

  • Amniotic band syndrome
  • Gastrochisis
  • Sacrococcygeal teratoma
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia