What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination, caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Symptoms can include:
- delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by eight months or not walking by 18 months
- seeming too stiff or too floppy
- weak arms or legs
- fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
- random, uncontrolled movements
- walking on tip-toes
- a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities
Some people affected by cerebral palsy also have some level of intellectual disability. No two people with cerebral palsy are affected in exactly the same way.
How Is Cerebral Palsy Currently Treated?
Today’s therapies focus on making the symptoms of cerebral palsy more manageable. There is no cure, but teams of healthcare professionals work together with the patient to tackle the different aspects of their cerebral palsy.
This might include physiotherapy and occupational therapy to improve movement and mobility, as well as speech therapy to improve communication skills.
Muscle relaxants are available to tackle muscle stiffness, and other medicines are available to help with feeding problems in babies.
How Can Stem Cells Be Used for Cerebral Palsy Treatment?
There have been a number of successful treatments where patients have made remarkable progress in their condition by having a stem cell infusion of their own umbilical cord blood collected at birth.
Patrick Rooney, who suffered from cerebral palsy, got an infusion from his banked umbilical cord blood. He saw remarkable improvement in his movement.
Before the infusion, Patrick dragged his left leg and kept tripping. Now he plays sports with his younger brother, and walks and runs normally. Watch Patrick’s story below:
Stem cell transplantation is a regenerative therapy that has the potential to replace the damaged and non-functional cells in the brains of CP patients, as well as to provide support to the remaining neurons and oligodendrocytes. There are many kinds of stem cells, each with different and unique characteristics.
As research has advanced, we have discovered that stem cells can be induced to become more specialized cell types, and when transplanted into the body, they can provide support to a damaged environment.
In addition, we can modify these stem cells to express certain factors that can enhance this ability. We can also modify the cells to express scar-degrading factors that can help to reduce scarring in the brain and promote recovery.
There is a plethora of research in the field of stem cell transplantation for CP, and this will be discussed below in the context of both preclinical animal research and clinical trials.