Cerebral Palsy Treatment: Exploring the Use of Stem Cell Cord Blood

Alternative, Cerebral Palsy Treatments

Research has revealed the potential in cord blood treatment for children with spastic cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP, and it is typically the result of brain damage that occurs before or at birth. Depending on when it is given, cord blood therapy may be an effective treatment for cerebral palsy, potentially improving motor function. Although more research is needed, this treatment shows promise for children with CP.

How Does Cord Blood Therapy Work?

Umbilical cord blood, or UCB, is known to be a source of various cells that may be candidates for preventing brain injury after hypoxic and inflammatory events during the perinatal period. These cells include:

  • Hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells, or MSCs
  • Endothelial progenitor cells, or EPCs
  • Immunosuppressive cells, including regulatory T cells, or Tregs, and monocyte-derived suppressor cells

Current research is exploring the therapeutic potential of UCB. Already, the blood stem cells found in umbilical cord blood have been used to treat cancers, genetic diseases, and neurological disorders. UCB is used commonly to treat:

  • Acute leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Lymphomas
  • Thalassemia
  • Sickle cell disease

Researchers also believe UCB contains other therapeutic cells that may influence the formation of new neural connections, which could be particularly helpful for children with CP.

Umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells provide various advantages for the treatment of a variety of disorders, especially perinatal brain injury. Advantages of UCB cells include their low immunogenicity. Low immunogenicity creates a low risk of rejection as well as a low risk of the development of graft vs. host disease. As a result, UCB cells are a relatively safe source of cells for transplantation.

Additionally, UCB is:

  • Able to withstand cryopreservation for a long time
  • Available in large quantities
  • Typically discarded at birth

Studies have shown UCB reduces brain injury when given as an early intervention therapy within hours after a brain injury. Umbilical cord blood therapy for cerebral palsy shows great potential to protect or repair injury in a young brain.

How Does It Treat Cerebral Palsy?

Cord blood cerebral palsy treatment involves a few possibilities. UCB cord blood from the child with cerebral palsy may be infused, or a sibling’s cord blood may be infused.

Children with spastic CP who receive an infusion of cells from their own umbilical cord blood may show improved neural connectivity. These children may also show improved motor function after receiving the infusion of UCB. Research shows that cord blood cells provided in appropriately dosed infusion may lessen symptoms in children with CP. Children with CP who receive these infusions may exhibit improvement with:

  • Crawling
  • Kneeling
  • Rolling
  • Completing other movements

However, many families who have a child with CP did not bank their child’s cord blood. Additional research is being performed that looks at using sibling cord blood to provide cord blood cerebral palsy treatment.

Studies have shown that children who have CP and received cord blood therapy progressed beyond expected improvements usually seen as children develop. Children with CP receiving cord blood therapy should continue to receive traditional therapies and treatments, such as physical and occupational therapy.

How Can I Determine If My Child Is a Good Candidate?

Your child may be a good candidate for cord blood cerebral palsy treatment if they have spastic cerebral palsy. Additionally, your child may be a good candidate if you banked that child’s cord blood, or if you banked cord blood from a sibling who is a perfect HLA match for their brother or sister with CP. Odds that a child will be a full HLA match for a sibling are 25% for each sibling. Ultimately, you should work with your child’s medical providers to determine the best course of treatment.

What to Ask Your Doctor About Cord Blood Therapy

Cord blood therapy for cerebral palsy may be possible depending on factors such as:

  • The availability of banked UCB from the child with CP
  • The availability of banked UCB from a sibling of the child with CP, and that sibling’s status as an HLA match
  • The timing of CP diagnosis

You could speak with your doctor about the availability of clinical trials for your child, finding out if sibling(s) are an HLA match as well as the efficacy of cord blood treatment for a child at your child’s age. You may also want to ask your doctor about the most current research being performed for UCB treatment in children with cerebral palsy.

Research is still ongoing, but cord blood therapy may improve symptoms of CP in children who receive these treatments, potentially improving their outlook and quality of life as they develop and grow.
In the meantime, if you suspect that your child developed CP due to medical negligence, you should contact our legal team at Janet, Janet & Suggs. We have the experience and know-how to determine if you have a case and how you can best proceed.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?