Cord Blood Stem Cells & Cerebral Palsy
How Does Stem Cell Treatment Work? Is it Effective? Is it Right for My Child?
The families of children with cerebral palsy generally have several options for treatment. These treatments include a range of physical therapies, surgeries, and more. Among the different types of treatments, one of the most-discussed is stem cell therapy.
Stem cell science is at its infancy, but it has shown potential in limiting the damage to cells in the brain, as well as alleviating or reducing painful symptoms. Now, scientists from prestigious hospitals and research centers all over the world are initiating stem cell therapy for children with cerebral palsy.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy basically involves taking young, undeveloped cells from substrate (such as umbilical cord blood) and then culturing and manipulating it to form specialized cells which can then be transplanted into different areas of the body to stimulate neurogenesis—the birth of new neural connections.
The young stem cells in cord blood are have not begun to form specific types of tissues – skin, muscle, organs – and thus may grow into virtually any tissue in the human body. Doctors and scientists have worked diligently and been able to identify certain types of stem cells that may be good candidates when it comes to treating CP, such as:
- Induced pluripotent stem cells
- Umbilical cord stem cells
- Natural stem cells
- Mesenchymal stem cells
Out of the four, mesenchymal and umbilical cord stem cells have been shown to have the least complications. As such, it is strongly recommended that you save your child’s cord blood at birth, even if you don’t think you will ever use it. The cost is usually around $2,000, but the benefits can be priceless.
Is My Child Eligible for Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy may be available to those who agreed to store their child’s cord blood at birth. Simply storing this cord blood can be extremely beneficial because cord blood can be used to treat numerous types of neurological and immune system disorders.
While stem cell treatment is still new, many studies are currently looking for individuals who may fit a certain criteria. If you are interested, reach out to your cord blood registry or to research hospitals in your state for more information. Such treatments are more likely to be successful in children who are very young, and, of course, we always recommend speaking to your child’s physician first to see if stem cell therapy is recommended.
Will Stem Cell Treatment Help My Child?
While stem cell treatment is not a cure, it may help alleviate some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy to a certain extent. It is important to note that stem cell treatment for cerebral palsy is at its infancy stage, and that one should temper their expectations until more is done on the subject.
In one recent study published in October of 2017, researchers found that those who received one intravenous dose of cord blood with at least 25 million stem cells per kilogram of body weight had improvements in motor function a year later. Additional studies are currently underway.
While cord blood may be beneficial to many, it’s important to understand that most brain injuries are irreversible. Unfortunately, the one organ in our body central to just about everything we are cannot heal itself. Because of that fact, people who suffer brain injuries of any type – including those that cause cerebral palsy – will likely be affected for the rest of their life. In some cases, they are able to overcome the worst aspects of their conditions, but stem cell therapy does not affect everyone the same way.
Private cord blood storage is sometimes discouraged by those who say most children are unlikely to need his or her own cord-blood stem cells. Public donations are praised by many because they have the ability to help more families – but those donated cells may not be available to the donating families down the road. Doctors caution that some unscrupulous stem cell companies (often operating outside of the United States), can be very dangerous—especially when the stem cells come from another donor (1) (2).