A Cure in Sight for Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain before or during birth or in the first few years of life, and has no known cure. Recent studies that utilize a child’s own stem cells to repair damaged neural tissue, may provide new or renewed hope for vast improvement, and even a cure, for children diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
An estimated two million Americans live with varying degrees of cerebral palsy (CP). Caused by an injury to the brain before or during birth or in the first few years of life, cerebral palsy has no known cure. There is no one course of treatment that is effective for all who have CP; each case is different. Symptoms of cerebral palsy usually present within the first two years of a child’s life and can include stiff muscles and joints, an abnormal or unsteady gait and hearing or vision problems, among others.
Some medications may help loosen stiff muscles and joints. Physical and occupational therapy also offers some relief and may improve motor function. There is currently no treatment that offers lifelong benefits – a cure – to people with cerebral palsy. Until now, perhaps. Based on initial results of recent studies that utilize a child’s own stem cells to repair damaged neural tissue that contributes to the existence of cerebral palsy, there may be new or renewed hope for vast improvement, and even a cure, for children diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Focusing On Stem Cells/Cord Blood As Cure
Two studies – one out of Duke University and another at the Medical College of Georgia – may offer hope to parents of children dealing with cerebral palsy after a birth injury. Researchers are using blood from a child’s own umbilical cord to treat CP and some children are showing marked improvements in mobility, speech and movement.
The Duke University study is moving into phase II of its Cerebral Palsy Autologous Cord Blood Study. Researchers are looking for volunteers to be test subjects in a larger study of the potential positive effects of an intravenous transfusion of cord blood to children with cerebral palsy. Participants will either receive the transfusion of cord blood or a placebo so that researchers can determine whether improvements are simply occurring over time or if the cord blood is the driver of improvement.
The Georgia study, headed by pediatric neurologist James Carroll, includes 40 children between the ages of 2 and 12 with cerebral palsy. The research seeks to expand on the concept of adult stem cells being useful in healing adult brain injuries to children. The use of cord blood is a viable source of stem cells that may provide replacements for portions of a child’s nervous system that were destroyed in a birth injury or that simply never developed completely, resulting in cerebral palsy.
Availability Of Cord Blood For Individuals With Cerebral Palsy
One problem that could materialize if the studies prove successful in treating cerebral palsy is the availability of a child’s own cord blood for treatment. As of yet, there is no indication that donated stem cells or cord blood would be as effective as a child’s own cord blood in rebuilding damaged nervous system cells. Parents have the option of saving cord blood after the birth of a child with the Cord Blood Registry, but at a cost of over $2,000 for only the first year, many parents may not have opted for the as-yet-unproven safety net.
If your family has been affected by cerebral palsy, a medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia can help you understand your right to financial compensation to help meet the needs of your son or daughter as he or she develops and needs continuing medical care to live with CP.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.