2-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy Walking After Stem Cell Infusion

By Stephen Luke

A 2-year-old San Diego girl who received a stem cell infusion of her own umbilical cord blood, banked at birth, is giving new hope to parents of children with brain injuries.

Doctors have used cord blood for decades to help with blood disorders and some other diseases, but now a handful of new studies show those same cells can travel up to baby’s brain and heal injured areas.

The ramifications could impact everything from autism to cerebral palsy.

Ava Johnson, born with cerebral palsy, had limited use of the entire left side of her body. She didn’t use her left hand and couldn’t walk at 18 months until an experimental treatment changed everything, according to her parents.

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Fundraising Effort Focuses on Research to Cure Cerebral Palsy

Will it one day be possible to cure cerebral palsy? Scientists working in a new field of study known as “regenerative medicine” think so. But support is needed to further the research, according to two non-profit organizations founded by parents of children with CP.

Cerebral Palsy Family Network (CPFN) and Cure CP have kicked off “Stand for CP,” to raise money to help extend research currently underway at Duke University by stem cell pioneer Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg.

“Dr. Kurtzberg’s work holds tremendous potential for helping children with cerebral palsy lead normal or more functional lives, but like most research dealing with cerebral palsy, it needs financial support to survive,” said Lisa Viele, parent with CPFN. Donations are being accepted through the CPFN Facebook page.

Dr. Kurtzberg, chief scientific officer, Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy Program, is conducting a clinical trial involving some 100 children with CP to see if reinfusions of their own umbilical cord blood can help regenerate or repair damaged brain cells. The trial, which is closed to new participants, is scheduled to be completed in January.

Dr. Kurtzberg is considered the world’s leading expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood. The Duke program is focused on how to use stem cells to directly benefit children with cerebral palsy and a number of other disorders and diseases.

One hundred percent of the money raised will go to support this research, Ms. Viele said.

“Stand for CP” Also to Raise Awareness

The campaign slogan “Stand for CP” reflects solidarity with those living with the disorder, and also is meant to raise awareness about the prevalence of CP and the challenges that children and adults with cerebral palsy face every day.

“Cerebral palsy is the leading movement disorder in children, with some 800,000 adults and children living with CP at any given time in the U.S., yet it falls way down the list in terms of federal research investment in finding creative treatments. We parents and others must fill in the gap,” Viele said.

Cerebral Palsy Family Network is the largest web-based organization in the world providing resources for families with children living with CP. Cure CP is a non-profit committed to funding the support of cerebral palsy research, with a focus on developing new therapeutic methodologies for the treatment of CP.

To make a donation, visit the Stand for CP campaign page.

TCU Celebrated Their Win over West Virginia with a Young Fan with Cerebral Palsy

By Nina Mandell

Abby Faber, a 7-year-old who is suffering from cerebral palsy, has long been an Iowa State fan. But on Thursday night, she found herself in TCU’s locker room with a standing ovation from the team and a chance to celebrate their win.

Faber first entered into the national spotlight when TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin greeted her when she was on the field during the Iowa State-TCU matchup. He posted a photo taken of their meeting by a photographer for the Star-Telegram on Instagram and TCU fans began to raise money for her medical expenses, according to the Star-Telegram.

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