Stem cell therapy is a relatively new form of treatment (still in it’s research stage) for cerebral palsy (CP). In fact, there are currently only two facilities in the United States that perform research trials on stem cell therapy and CP.
Current Research on Stem Cell Therapy
Although there are numerous different research projects that study how stem cell therapy will help treat those with CP, experts remain skeptical that it will ever cure the disorder. Instead, scientists and researchers are focusing more on how stem cell therapy can reduce or eliminate disabilities caused by CP and help other factors such as limiting and reducing brain cell damage. In fact, current research is searching into ways to stop brain cell damage before it even starts.
Research today focuses on testing stem cells on animals with brain injuries, and in turn, attempt to develop new treatments. According to EuroStemCell, a organization made up of physicians, clinicians, scientists, and researchers, the research so far has proven successful in reducing brain damage and treating side effects. The problem, however, is that an animal brain is not understood as well yet when it comes to damage and cell loss, and the results on animals will not necessarily be the same results for people.
Can Stem Cell Therapy Treat Infants with Cerebral Palsy?
Currently, stem cell therapy cannot treat infants nor anyone else who lives with CP, as research into stem cell therapy is still in the laboratory and clinical trial phase. Experts speculate that once the research is out of its clinical trial stages, patients will probably need accompanying forms of treatment as well, such as physical therapy and physiotherapy, which can complement the effectiveness of stem cell therapy.
Before any type of treatment can happen, however, there must be a established proof through a series of research, that shows stem cell therapy will be beneficial for babies with CP.
What Types of Stems Cells are Used for Cerebral Palsy Research?
According to the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF), there are five different stem cells used when testing animals while researching neonatal trauma and injuries, which include:
- Natural stem cells
- Induced pluripotent stem cells
- Mesenchymal stem cells (MCS)
- Umbilical cord stem cells
CPIRF states that are there advantages as well as disadvantages to each type of cell.
When determining strategies to use for newborn disorders and injuries, experts have suggested that MCS seems to be the most promising.
Stem cell researcher Dr. Luigi Titomanlio states that, “based on animal models of hypoxic ischemicencephalopathy, human cord blood cells and mesenchymal stem cells (MCS) may be the most promising stem cells, as they are effective and potentially available for human studies. Human cord blood stem cells have advantages over MCS that may support their use for neonatal insults.”
According to The Stem Cell Institute, stems cells from human umbilical cord tissue (HUC) may be the best treatment option for those with CP. Since these types of stems are harvested and donated, they generally go through rigorous screenings for any viruses and bacteria.
“Through retrospective analysis of our cases, we’ve identified proteins and genes that allow us to screen several hundred umbilical cord donations to find the ones that we know are most effective. We only use these cells and we call them ‘golden cells,'”, said Dr. Riordan, of the Stem Cell Institute. We go through a very high throughput screening process to find cells that we know have the best anti-inflammatory activity, the best immune modulating capacity, and the best ability to stimulate regeneration.”
There are numerous advantages and benefits to HUC, which include:
- The ability to treat anyone (since HLA matching is not necessary)
- They can be administered several times over the course of several days
- They offer a large supply of MCS
Is There Any Way to Get Involved in Stem Cell Therapy for Cerebral Palsy?
Although public treatment options are not yet available, there are numerous ongoing clinical trials available. For instance, in cooperation with the Cord Blood Registry (CBR), Georgia Regents University offers an FDA-regulated clinical trial for children between the ages of 1 and 12 who have already been diagnosed with CP. The purpose of the trial is to evaluate the treatment options of CP with cord blood stem cell infusion.
Another ongoing clinical trial conducted by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in coordination with the CBR, study two different forms of stem cell therapy and how they may be able to treat children with CP. Children must be between the ages of 2 and 10, and already diagnosed with CP.
For more information on stem cell therapy clinical trials for CP and for additional, contact the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) patient participation hotline at 1-800-411-1222 or the CBR at 1-888-932-6568. Keep in mind that most clinical trials, while completely optional, may have different requirements. For instance, in some clinical trials, any level of CP is accepted, while other trials may require that clients have only severe cases of the disorder. Some trials may require that parents have their child’s saved cord blood while others may need additional requirements. In addition, many parents may not know the results of clinical trials until a year or more later (depending upon the trial).