Cord Blood Stem Cells, Offering a Life Beyond Cerebral Palsy
As the most common childhood physical disability in the world, cerebral palsy affects two in every 1,000 live births. With no known cure, the most children can hope for is several years of an assisted and challenging life.
However, for several years, results from clinical trials using cord blood stem cells have shown promising steps toward improving cerebral palsy patient outcomes. One such story which has been spreading hope is that of Brodie, one of the first children in Australia to receive sibling cord blood as a treatment for cerebral palsy.
Brodie was a healthy baby who met all his milestones in his early months. But after a while, his parents began to notice some irregularities in his movements and so decided to seek out professional help. Following numerous doctor’s visits, Brodie’s family learned he had experienced a stroke while in the womb.
The stroke affected Brodie’s ability to control his left side, and when he was eighteen months old, he was diagnosed with left hemiplegia cerebral palsy.
A Promising Future Treatment for 1000s of Children
It was on a trip to the doctor’s office while pregnant with his sister that Brenda, Brodie’s mother, saw a brochure that would change her son’s life. It was for the first clinical trial in Australia using sibling cord blood to treat twelve children with established cerebral palsy.
This moment led to baby Zoey’s cord blood being collected, processed, and stored in a cord blood bank immediately after she was born. The next step involved Brodie going to the Royal Children’s Hospital for his cord blood transplant. The young boy received an infusion of the cord blood stem cells obtained from his sister Zoey, delivered in the same way you would receive a blood transfusion.
It was just a few weeks after the transplant that Brodie’s parents began seeing noticeable improvements in his condition. Today, Brodie has seen progress in his cognitive abilities and can engage in a range of activities he would never have imagined possible. “Particularly with his left arm, since the cord blood treatment Brodie’s increased movement and strength in his left arm has had a significant impact on his quality of life. Prior to December, he would avoid playground apparatus requiring the use of his left arm; it’s no longer the case now,” said Brenda.
According to Prof. Graham Jenkin of Monash University, where the trial was conducted, cord blood stem cells are believed to ameliorate the symptoms of cerebral palsy by reducing inflammation and swelling in the brain. “Cerebral palsy, when all is said and done, is an inflammatory disease. The brain becomes inflamed for various reasons, that cause cerebral palsy, and we have shown in our preclinical studies that these cells help dampen that inflammation,” said Prof. Jenkin.
The clinical trial that Brodie was involved in was a phase 1 study designed to investigate the safety of cord blood stem cells for cerebral palsy. The encouraging outcomes will now be followed up with a phase 2 clinical trial with a larger group of participants in Australia. This trial will help determine the efficacy of sibling cord blood transplants for treating cerebral palsy.
Another fascinating trial at Monash Health aims to target cerebral palsy at its source. As nearly half of children who develop cerebral palsy are born prematurely, the trial hopes to reduce the chance and severity of cerebral palsy by giving such premature babies their own cord blood cells as soon as possible after birth.
Such developments are paving the way for a future when such conditions as cerebral palsy do not have to significantly limit a child’s life, and may even allow them to live as fully capable and independent adults.