What is Cerebral Palsy?This is a condition which injuries or abnormalities of the brain, usually in the womb but it can also occur any time during 2 years after birth. Premature and low birth weight babies are at the highest risk. It may be caused by infections, gene mutations or a lack of oxygen. Because the brain and nervous system are affected, it results in problems with child's functions of thinking, seeing, hearing; learning and movement (coordinate muscle movement).
Thus repair of the injured brain and focusing and reducing the impairments and disabilities resulted from developmental brain injury is the key to treatment of cerebral palsy. To repair existing damage to the brain areas that control muscle coordination and movement currently, there are no clinically meaningful interventions. But to reduce the degree of impairment and to improve upon the ADLs of an individual affected with cerebral palsy several interventions can be approached. Currently the treatments available are supportive, but not curative.
Currently, stem cell treatment is in the clinical trial phase, and shows promise of providing more successful options for cerebral palsy patients.
Can cerebral palsy be treated with stem cells?It has been found that in utilizing autologous (patient's own) cord blood-derived stem cells to treat children with cerebral palsy in an ongoing clinical trial, parents have reported functional improvement in their children after receiving cord blood-derived stem cells.
The positives of Umbilical cord blood (UCB)is:
- Shows to have significantly reduced the clinical and radiographic impact of hypoxic brain injury and stroke.
- UCB as is the inherent nature of stem cells, also engrafts and differentiates in brain, facilitating neural cell repair. Thus, injecting of autologous UCB will result in improvement in cerebral palsy patients due to brain injury.
How are the stem cells administered during CP treatment?The stem cells are administered intravenously (IV), but they may also be administered intrathecally (into the spinal fluid) depending upon the age and physical size of the patient, which then circulate to the brain. Thus intrathecal injection allows the stem cells to bypass the mature blood-brain barrier efficiently and migrate throughout the central nervous system.
The usual is 4 intravenous infusions of expanded/non-expanded donor mesenchymal and CD34+ stem cells. And the cerebral palsy treatment protocol typically takes 5 days.
Which kinds of stem cells are utilized for CP treatment and how are they collected?The Stem Cells are engineered from expanded and fresh human umbilical cord matrix and cord blood (allogenic mesenchymal and CD34+) to treat cerebral palsy. Harvesting of these cells is done from umbilical cords and cord blood. Cells are rigorously screened for viruses and bacteria before they are approved for use in patients.
Characteristics of allogenic umbilical cord cells : are that they can be used on any patient, as there is no requirement to use the patient's own banked cord blood. These cells can be administered multiple times over the course of days in uniform dosages that contain high cell counts, not just once. Also, Umbilical cord matrix provides an abundant supply of mesenchymal stem cells. On the other hand, the cord blood itself contains very few mesenchymal cells. They also hold an advantage over bone marrow derived cells as in UCD cells there is no need to collect stem cells from the patient's hip bone under general anesthesia, which can be an unpleasant ordeal. As UCD are collected right after (normal) birth, umbilical cord-derived cells are much more potent than their "older" counterparts like bone marrow-derived cells. The most important USP of Umbilical cord-derived stem cells is that they are not recognized as foreign and thus pose no rejection risk.
It has been seen that patients who receive this treatment have shown improvements in their physical abilities, such as improved walking and better eye focus. Stem cell treatment also has exhibited potential to improve the ability to write and swim unassisted.
Researchers feel that the young may benefit the most with cerebral palsy stem cell studies. Though the volume of cells to be injected to derive maximum benefit is still under study, currently the stem cell treatment for cerebral palsy is being prepared for additional trials. When treating cerebral palsy, it's important to foster the child's sense of independence and encourage him. Stem cells therapy designs for cerebral palsy are surely the next thing.
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