Docs infuse cord blood stem cells to treat cerebral palsy

New Delhi: Doctors at a hospital in the city are trying to see if an infusion of stem cells from umbilical cord blood can improve the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy.

Researchers with Paediatric Haematology Oncology Department of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital had on January 11 transplanted stem cells in a small boy whose parents had stored cord blood with Cryobanks International India, a private cord blood bank.

The attempt has been made following reports of marked improvement in children with cerebral palsy after an initial infusion of cord blood by Dr Joanne Kurtzberg, Director of Duke University`s Paediatric Bone Marrow and Transplant Programme, said Dr Anupam Sachdev, Head of the unit and member of the research committee at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

"We have for the first time tried to see if cord blood stem cells can treat a child suffering from cerebral palsy. It is not a clinical trial as it is being carried out in only one child. It is being completely done on compassionate grounds. Proper consent of the ethics committee and the parents of the child has been taken. This has been done after literature has shown successful results of treatment of cerebral palsy in children with help from stem cells," Dr Sachdev said.

Cerebral palsy happens when the areas of the brain that control movement and posture do not develop correctly or get damaged. In children, it is caused by a brain injury or lack of oxygen in the brain before birth or during the first few years of life.

Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before three years of age. Babies with cerebral palsy are often slow in rolling over, sitting, crawling or walking, making them paralysed in all ways.

"The child`s parents had stored his cord blood with us. The child`s own stem cells have been given to him for the treatment. It is the safest form of stem cell transplantation because it carries no threat of immune system rejection," Dr M Chaturvedi, medical director, Cryobanks International India, said.

She said,"After cord blood stem cells showed promising results in treating cerebral palsy in children, the US government has granted a large funding to the Duke University to carry clinical trials on this area."

"Parents of many such children have sought a similar procedure but not all can be operated. This child was evaluated for six months before we zeroed in on the decision to infuse his own stem cells. We are hopeful that it will show some positive results," Dr Chaturvedi said.