BACKGROUND: Preterm infants can be inadvertently exposed to high tidal volumes (VT) during resuscitation in the delivery room due to limitations of available equipment. High VT ventilation of preterm lambs produces cerebral white matter (WM) pathology similar to that observed in preterm infants who develop cerebral palsy. We hypothesized that human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs), which have anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties, would reduce ventilation-induced WM pathology in neonatal late preterm lamb brains. METHODS: Two groups of lambs (0.85 gestation) were used, as follows: (1) ventilated lambs (Vent; n = 8) were ventilated using a protocol that induces injury (VT targeting 15 ml/kg for 15 min, with no positive end-expiratory pressure) and were then maintained for another 105 min, and (2) ventilated + hAECs lambs (Vent+hAECs; n = 7) were similarly ventilated but received intravenous and intratracheal administration of 9 x 10(7) hAECs (18 x 10(7) hAECs total) at birth. Oxygenation and ventilation parameters were monitored in real time; cerebral oxygenation was measured using near-infrared spectroscopy. qPCR (quantitative real-time PCR) and immunohistochemistry were used to assess inflammation, vascular leakage and astrogliosis in both the periventricular and subcortical WM of the frontal and parietal lobes. An unventilated control group (UVC; n = 5) was also used for qPCR analysis of gene expression. Two-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare physiological data. Student’s t test and one-way ANOVA were used for immunohistological and qPCR data comparisons, respectively. RESULTS: Respiratory parameters were not different between groups. Interleukin (IL)-6 mRNA levels in subcortical WM were lower in the Vent+hAECs group than the Vent group (p = 0.028). IL-1beta and IL-6 mRNA levels in periventricular WM were higher in the Vent+hAECs group than the Vent group (p = 0.007 and p = 0.001, respectively). The density of Iba-1-positive microglia was lower in the subcortical WM of the parietal lobes (p = 0.010) in the Vent+hAECs group but not in the periventricular WM. The number of vessels in the WM of the parietal lobe exhibiting protein extravasation was lower (p = 0.046) in the Vent+hAECs group. Claudin-1 mRNA levels were higher in the periventricular WM (p = 0.005). The density of GFAP-positive astrocytes was not different between groups. CONCLUSIONS: Administration of hAECs at the time of birth alters the effects of injurious ventilation on the preterm neonatal brain. Further studies are required to understand the regional differences in the effects of hAECs on ventilation-induced WM pathology and their net effect on the developing brain.