For the first time ever, the FDA has approved a study out of the Medical College of Georgia that will attempt to test the effectiveness of adult umbilical cord stem cells in the treatment of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. For sufferers of cerebral palsy, this could be the first step toward alleviating the outward symptoms, if not necessarily an outright cure.
Anecdotal evidence suggests this treatment has a chance of working. For more than 20 years, doctors have used stem cells from umbilical blood, and these tests have showed increased mobility in patients suffering from cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is generally caused either by a brain injury or by a lack of oxygen making its way to the brain. Blood from the umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, which are able to divide and multiply, and then transform into other types of cells. In animal studies, stem cells have been able to help injured brain cells recover, as well as replace dead brain cells.
In an interview with the Medical College of Georgia News, Dr. James Carroll, the head researcher on the study, said the study itself could be groundbreaking for sufferers of not only cerebral palsy, but also of all brain injuries. “Evidence up to this point has been purely anecdotal. While a variety of cord blood stem cell therapies have been used successfully for more than 20 years, this study is breaking new ground in advancing therapies for brain injury — a condition for which there is currently no cure.”
During the study, 40 children ages 2-12 will be tested. Half will initially receive stem cells, while the other half will receive a placebo. After three months — the point at which, anecdotally, the patients should show significant improvement — the children will be tested by doctors. After this, the half of the study group that initially received the placebo will receive stem cells. All groups will be viewed again three and six months later.