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Clinical trials around the world are testing the safety and efficacy of using cord blood to treat cerebral palsy.

CP describes a condition characterized by impaired muscle coordination caused by damage to the brain during development. Children with CP have been found to have increased systemic inflammatory responses [Lin CY, Chang YC, Wang ST, et al]. A recent report titled Umbilical Cord Blood Therapy Potentiated with Erythropoietin for Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial suggests these impairments may be overcome by stem cell therapy, specifically using umbilical cord blood, based on the known neuroprotective properties from anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic activities.

Participants and Study Design

Children (10 months to 10 years of age) were randomized into three groups (approximately 30 children/group). The test group received CB and erythropoietin (EPO); the control groups received either EPO alone or placebo. All groups received rehabilitation.

The changes after six months in the following scores were evaluated against baseline: gross motor performance measure, gross motor function measure, Bayley scales of infant development-II mental and motor scales. Changes in the brain were assessed using F-flourodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and diffusion tensor images.

After six months, an improvement was seen in all groups compared with baseline, but the test group that received CB+EPO faired significantly better in all scores.

Conclusion

The authors of the study conclude:

“In conclusion, UCB (umbilical cord blood) treatment ameliorated motor and cognitive dysfunction in children with CP undergoing active rehabilitation, accompanied by structural and metabolic changes in the brain.”

Although there are limitations to this study, such as use of allogeneic cord blood and use of cyclosporine in particular, and no group receiving cord blood alone, this is the first controlled clinical data published on this subject and it shows that the use of cord blood in this setting is safe and maybe also efficacious.

Several clinical studies are on the way in the US and we are waiting to see if these will concur with the conclusions of this study.

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