Stem Cell Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the common name for a group of disorders which affects up to 2.5 per 1,000 babies born each year. The condition typically affects motor function, but the ways in which the condition shows itself vary radically in each individual case. Some sufferers may show only a slightly impaired gait when they walk, whereas others may need a wheelchair and intensive physical therapy. s
The damage which causes cerebral palsy can be incurred before, during or shortly after birth. Some common causes for this damage include a prenatal infection in the mother, a traumatic birth during which the baby is deprived of oxygen, or too-rough handling of a newborn infant. The incidence of cerebral palsy appears to be slightly on the rise, which many experts attribute to improved neo-natal care. More premature infants, babies who most likely would not have survived years ago, are now surviving, although the factors which made them premature are often those which contribute to cerebral palsy. This condition can be devastating for both child and parents alike, and it is estimated that a child born with cerebral palsy will incur close to one million dollars in expenses due to their condition throughout their lifetime. This figure includes lost wages, as many cerebral palsy patients are unable to work.
How Stem Cells can Help
Stem cell therapy used to be a highly controversial practice, as stem cells were often harvested from embryos. However, new advances in medical science have made the field much less controversial and much more promising, as stem cells can now be harvested from a patient’s own blood or bone marrow, from a donor’s blood or from umbilical cord blood. Stem cells are unique and have huge potential in the medical field because they have the potential to become any type of cell within the human body.
In treating cerebral palsy with stem cells, the cells are injected into the spinal fluid. From there, they travel to the brain and, hopefully, join and repair the damaged cells.
Certain countries, such as Ecuador and Trinidad, are already treating humans, and these treatments have produced some very encouraging evidence. In several cases, children treated with stem cells have gained motor skill function and mobility.
Since the treatment is highly experimental in the United States, some families are seeking treatment in other countries. Others are signing up for waiting lists for clinical trials, although experts predict that the first of these trials will not begin for at least several years.