Can Cerebral Palsy be Prevented With Cord Blood Stem Cells?

International   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jun 6, 2014   |   4:13PM   |   Washington, DC

In my life I have been blessed to know many people who have cerebral palsy. When I was a child, Michael, a friend of my parents, would come to visit. My brother and I looked forward to his time with us because of his infectious sense of humor.

Later, when I married my husband, I got to meet his cousin Jay. Jay is confined to a wheel chair but that did not stop him from making me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. And just around the corner from my house lives Sarah. She cannot speak, but her mother and sister, who was hands down my kids favorite babysitter, look at her with such love and admiration that I know she communicates effectively without words.

cerebralpalsy2From knowing these great people, I know that cerebral palsy (CP) is often misunderstood. The typical slurred speech and awkward movements of those with CP are often mistaken for other disorders. CP is caused by an injury to the brain right around the time of birth and it can have mild to devastating effects on muscle control. CP is the most common childhood motor disability. According to over 700,000 Americans have cerebral palsy.

Researchers in Australia are trying to prevent CP by starting a trial to see if certain stem cells from the umbilical cord can repair the damage to the newborn brain. The Herald Sun has the story:

MELBOURNE researchers have singled out three types of stem cells in the cord blood, as they prepare to trial giving Victorian babies back their own umbilical blood in the hope of preventing cerebral palsy.

Pre-clinical studies at the Ritchie Centre, part of the MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, found that giving cord blood back to newborn animals in their first 12 hours of life, can help prevent brain damage caused by birth asphyxia.

Postdoctoral scientist Courtney McDonald told the Annual Congress of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, they were now working on finding out what factors in cord blood were crucial for brain repair.

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“Cord blood works, but we want to know what’s the best cord blood to give back,” Dr McDonald said.

“These particular cells can actually stop the inflammation which causes damage. They can help the baby’s own brain repair itself, and help these blood vessels become stronger.”

Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood physical disability, with about 700 Australian babies born with the movement disorder each year.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this study shows that a baby’s own umbilical cord blood can be effective in treating and preventing CP? It would not only be another adult stem cell success, but also good news for babies everywhere.