Ascending inflammation from the vagina is a major cause of preterm birth. Currently, this condition—especially when uncontrolled—has no effective treatment. Human amniotic fluid stem cells (hAFSCs) are mesenchymal stem cells known to exert potent anti-inflammatory effects in animal models of perinatal diseases, such as periventricular leukomalacia, myelomeningocele, and neonatal sepsis. However, hAFSC therapy for inflammation-induced preterm birth has not been tested. In order to determine the therapeutic effect of hAFSC transplantation, we employed a preterm mouse model of ascending infection; this model was constructed by administering lipopolysaccharide to pregnant mice. We investigated the preterm birth rate and evaluated the inflammation of tissues, which is related to progressive infections, such as those involving the cervix, placenta, and lavage cells, using real-time qPCR. Further, we tracked the fluorescence of fluorescently labeled hAFSCs using an in vivo imaging system, and hAFSC aggregation was evaluated using immunohistochemistry analysis. We also investigated the presence of multiple types of peritoneal macrophages via flow cytometry analysis. Finally, we performed sphere culturing and co-culturing to determine the therapeutic effects of hAFSCs, such as their anti-inflammatory effects and their potential to alter macrophage polarization. We found that hAFSC administration to the peritoneal cavity significantly reduced inflammation-induced preterm birth in the mouse model. The treatment also significantly suppressed inflammation of the placenta and cervix. Transplanted hAFSCs may have aggregated with peritoneal macrophages, switching them from an inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory type. This property has been reported in vivo previously, but here, we examined the effect in vitro. Our findings support the hypothesis that hAFSCs suppress inflammation and reduce preterm birth by switching macrophage polarity. This study is the first to demonstrate that hAFSCs are effective in the treatment and prevention of inflammation-induced preterm birth.
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