A group of German researchers (Campus Clinic Gynecology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Departament of Pediatrics, ruhr-University Bochum, St. Josef-Hospital, Bochum) observed the neuroregenerative potential of cord blood stem cells in treating cerebral palsy.
The experimental treatment was used on a boy whose cord blood was collected at birth. At the age of 2.5 the boy was admitted to a paediatric intensive care unit presenting gastrointestinal symptoms (persistent vomiting) and tachycardia. Resuscitation after cardiac arrest lasted 25 minutes. Once his condition was no longer life-threating the boy presented with severe symptoms connected to the central nervous system, including: impaired motor control, restlessness, hypertonia, ataxia, impaired verbal communication, impaired eye movement, poor response to light and sound, difficulty swallowing, constant whimpering or crying, drooling. Global ischemic brain damage occurred resulting in a persistent vegetative state, the boy stopped reacting to any outside stimuli.
Nine weeks later, the doctors decided to give him an autologous cord blood transplant. He received the blood intravenously. Active rehabilitation (physio- and ergotherapy) was provided daily, follow-up at 2, 5, 12, 24, 30, and 40 months.
The therapy improved the child’s state after just one week- the boy stopped crying and began reacting to acoustic stimuli. Significant improvement was noticed 2 months after he received the stem cell transplant. The boy’s motor control improved, spastic paresis was largely reduced, and eyesight was recovered. He smiled when played with, was able to sit and to speak simple words. At 40 months, the young patient could eat independently, walk in a gait trainer, crawl and move from prone position to free sitting, and there was significantly improved receptive and expressive speech competence. EEG (electroencephalography) results were normal.
Considering the length of resuscitation and the extensive brain damage, the German doctors emphasize that the boy’s chances of survival were very low (around 6 %). They also pointed out that autologous cord blood transplantation could have been a significant factor in the treatment since such remarkable functional neuroregeneration is difficult to explain by intense active rehabilitation alone.
The case described above is the first published report on the use of cord blood stem cells in the treatment of brain damage symptoms. Undoubtedly this story gives hope that, in the future stem cells could be one of the additional therapies in the treatment of brain damage in children and adults.
A. Jensen, E. hamelmann "First Autologous Cell Therapy of Cerebral Palsy Caused by Hypoxic-Ischemic Brain Damage in a Child after Cardiac Arrest—Individual Treatment with Cord Blood", Case Reports in Transplantation, Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 951827, 6 pages.