Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different types of cells such as muscle, brain or red blood cells. Stem cells do this during early life and growth, serving as a sort of internal repair system, and can replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. Some researchers refer to stem cells as the body’s repair mechanism.

Myth – You’re born with every brain cell you’ll ever have and the ability of the brain to repair itself was limited. Over the years, researchers have published findings that suggest that maybe repair could be possible.

How Can Stem Cells Help Treat Children with CP?

Depending on the underlying cause of the CP, it is usually the result of a perinatal central nervous system insult that creates damage to the brain. The goal of stem cell treatment is to enable the brain to repair this damage.

Where Do Stem Cells Come From?

Regenerative transplants use stem cells from three sources:

  1. Bone Marrow
  2. Blood Stream
  3. Umbilical Cord

Types of Stem Cells

There are two basic types of human stem cells:

  1. Embryonic stem (ES) cells
  2. Non-embryonic, or “adult” stem cells

Types of Stem Cell Treatments

Stem cell treatments are classified as either: autologous, allogenic or xenogenic.

  • Autologous–Stem cells are obtained from an individual, processed in some way, then transplanted back into the same individual.
  • Allogenic–Stem cells are obtained from an individual, processed, then transplanted into a different individual. For example, bone marrow can be removed from one person and transplanted into another.
  • Xenogenic–Stem cells are removed from one species, processed in some way, then transplanted into an individual from another species. For example, stem cells can be removed from a cow and then used to treat a human.

What are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

After birth, cord blood is left in the umbilical cord and placenta. It contains haematopoietic (blood) stem cells (HSCs): rare cells normally found in the bone marrow. Haematopoietc stem cells form blood and immune cells and can make every type of cell in the blood – red cells, white cells and platelets.

Stem cells from perinatal tissues contain enormous potential to treat many diseases and disorders and the sources of these cells include: amnion, amniotic fluid, cord blood, cord tissue/wharton’s jelly, as well as placental blood and placental tissue.

Cord blood stem cells are considered ‘adult’ stem cells because stem cells collected from an individual after they are born are no longer considered fetal or embryonic. Today, umbilical cord blood (UCB) is currently a popular source of adult stem cells being tested as a therapy for many diseases and injuries. Researchers are finding that cells collected from the umbilical cords may also hold therapeutic potential to treat children with cerebral palsy.

Current Research

In our video on stem cell research, James Baumgarnet, M.D. of the Florida Hospital for Children talks with us about his research while in Houston involving stem cell trials in the treatment of traumatic brain injury and his current research at the Florida Hospital for Children using stem cells for the treatment of children with traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and stroke.

In Phase 2 clinical trials from Duke University Joanne Kurtzberg and her clinical team treated 63 children diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy. These children were treated with stem cells from their own umbilical cord blood. After a year, it was determined that children who received 25 million stem cells/kg. body weight showed the biggest improvements in motor function.

According to the results of the Phase 2 trial, infusion of autologous cord blood (ACB) cells can improve a child’s motor function and brain connectivity. The trial data was reported in the study, “Effect of Autologous Cord Blood Infusion on Motor Function and Brain Connectivity in Young Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. “Previous research has indicated it’s safe for children with cerebral palsy to receive an infusion of their own cord blood,” Kurtzberg said.

Ongoing studies include testing the benefits of multiple doses of cells, as well as the use of donor cells for patients whose own cord blood was not banked.” The team is currently promoting an expanded access protocol for umbilical cord blood infusions for children with brain injuries (NCT03327467). This aims to enable access to the treatment at Duke to children who have stored sibling or autologous umbilical cord blood units.

Georgia Regents University

Researchers at Georgia Regents University, in partnership with Cord Blood Registry, are conducting a landmark FDA-regulated clinical trial to evaluate the use of a cord blood stem cell infusion for the treatment of cerebral palsy in children. Dr. James Carroll, the principal investigator of the study, notes that “autologous stem cell transplantation, in which the transplant recipient is also the donor, is the safest form of stem cell transplantation because it carries virtually no threat of immune system rejection.”

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in collaboration with Cord Blood Registry, are starting an innovative FDA-regulated clinical trial to investigate two forms of stem cell therapy in children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The study aims to compare the safety and efficacy of an intravenous infusion of banked cord blood stem cells to freshly harvested bone marrow stem cells. Dr. Charles Cox, the principal investigator of the study, notes that “there is preclinical data indicating that the ongoing neuroinflammatory response is a driver of further injury in CP so the hope is to reduce this neuroinflammation. Our goal is to break the cycle of inflammation and injury,” adds Cox.

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