About 10,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year in the united states.
Cerebral palsy describes a number of disorders that affect the brain due to damage during the development of a fetus and shortly after a child is born. Cerebral palsy affects the way you move interrupting muscle coordination, development of muscle tone, reflexes, muscle control and balance. There is currently no cure for the condition and children diagnosed with cerebral palsy face a life-long battle to maintain mobility. Researchers have identified several causes for the condition and have noted that any number of a combination of factors can put a child at risk. Premature babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are at higher risk as well as babies born with very low birth weights. Male children are diagnosed at higher rates, and some bacterial and viral infections during pregnancy can cause the brain damage responsible for cerebral palsy.
Multiple births are also on the radar as a risk factor; over 10% of diagnosed cases of cerebral palsy are in children who were a part of multiple births. Although there is some evidence of genetic markers being the culprit behind cerebral palsy, the numbers are still low enough to be an uncommon cause. There is currently no known cure for cerebral palsy, but a newly released study from Duke University is shedding a new light of hope for people suffering from the condition.
“[B]rain function, as well as motor function, has been improved in patients who are treated with cord blood from their own umbilical cords”
Duke University Medical Center researchers have found that brain function, as well as motor function, has been improved in patients who are treated with cord blood from their own umbilical cords. Led by Joanne Kurtzberg a Jerome S. Harris professor of pediatrics and senior author of this ground-breaking study, Duke University researchers set out to find more effective treatment beyond the current go-to treatment of occupational and physical therapy used for cerebral palsy patients. Although people with cerebral palsy can live long lives with assistance, none of the current treatments extend quality of life by offering the opportunity to improve motor function to restore independence. Duke researchers found that cord blood may be the promising treatment that can improve the symptoms of the condition.
The study covered 63 patients with cerebral palsy not related to any genetic or hereditary markers ranging from age one to six whose parents elected to have their cord blood extracted and saved at birth. The double-blind study was administered with half of the patients receiving a placebo and the other half receiving an infusion of anywhere from ten to twenty-five million stem cells per kilogram of body weight derived from their cord blood. Each patient was tracked for a year and then reassessed using the Gross Motor Function Measure to chart progress.
“This knowledge of the power of cord blood stem cells…could offer parents a new alternative to treating their child.”
After one year after the initial injections, patients who received 20 million stem cells or greater showed significant improvement in motor function and brain activity compared to the patients receiving a lower dose or a placebo. At the one year mark, the study groups were switched, and the patients who originally received a placebo were dosed with cord blood stem cells, and patients who received cord blood in the first round of the study received a placebo. After the second year of the study, researchers were able to confirm their original conclusion when all of the patients who had received cord blood at any time during the two year study showed significant improvement in motor function and brain activity.
The study, published in the Journal of Stem Cells Translation Medicine, may finally be the breakthrough doctors and patients alike have been hoping for. Although there are a few factors that make the treatment widely accessible, like financial constraints that make cord blood banking too expensive for some families, this knowledge of the power of cord blood stem cells and cerebral palsy treatment could offer parents a new alternative to treating their child especially when the possibility of cerebral palsy is diagnosed prior to birth. There is also some hope that the cord blood of siblings can be effective as well.
Cord blood treatments have been approved by the FDA for a variety of conditions, and this study is paving the way for cerebral palsy to be added to that list. After identifying the optimal dose of stem cells to see improvements in the condition, more studies are in the works to continue testing the effectiveness of cord blood stem cells in cerebral palsy treatment.
Learn More About Stem Cell Therapy
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