Stem Cell Therapy: A New Hope for Cerebral Palsy Treatment
It is extremely disheartening to have a child that suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Not only does it disable the child’s motor functions, but the disease also causes great financial burdens on their family. Worse, Cerebral Palsy is becoming more and more common these days, with about 3 per 1000 newborn children getting affected.
Previously, there was no effective cure for Cerebral Palsy. Instead, most traditional treatments only center around symptom control and mobility improvements. However, with new researches, scientists have found a much more optimal treatment method – Stem cell therapy.
Basic knowledge about Cerebral Palsy
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy (commonly known as CP) is a group of disorders that severely affect the patient’s speech and movement control. As a type of motor disability, the condition is a result of an abnormal prenatal/ postnatal injury to the cerebrum – the brain part that regulates one’s motor functions. When that happens, brain cells fail to develop properly, and the corticospinal tract -which connects the brain with the spinal cord – becomes damaged. This, in turn, results in the disability of motor functions, including the ability to walk, talk and handle daily tasks without help.
Currently, Cerebral palsy is the most common type of disability among children. The disease not only seriously hinders patients’ coordination, but also gives rise to more complicated issues such as cognitive impairments. It is estimated that the average lifetime costs for CP patients are about $900,000 – a huge burden for the whole society.
Cerebral palsy is divided into 3 main types: spastic, dyskinetic, and ataxic. Each type comes with different symptoms, which range from muscle tightness to depth perception. Several factors may contribute to the development of Cerebral palsy, including premature birth, illness at birth (neonatal encephalopathy), physical injuries, uterus infections, and genetic changes in the brain.
How can Cerebral Palsy be treated?
Due to the humongous financial and social burdens it causes, various studies have been conducted to figure out an optimal treatment for Cerebral Palsy. Previously, most attempts have been focusing on social care and supportive counseling.
- Muscle relaxants can be used to reduce muscle stiffness;
- Physical/ occupational therapy may help improve the patient’s mobility and range of motion;
- Speech therapy may make it easier for patients to speak and communicate with people.
The problem of conventional CP treatments is that they do not actually deal with the condition’s root cause – the neurological function loss caused by brain injury. As a result, they generally cannot create significant improvements in the patient’s life quality. Due to the disease’s nature, it is often impossible to reverse the cerebral damage without any intervention with the growth of brain cells. That’s where stem cell therapy steps in – According to researchers, this treatment method has the capability of repairing neurologic defects and restoring the balance between neurotrophic factors.
Learn about Stem cell therapy
What are Stem cells?
Stem cells are primitive cells that have not yet developed any particular functions. These cells come with two unique abilities. First, they can replicate themselves while still retaining their undifferentiated state. Second, they are capable of transforming into different functional cells – including those of the nervous system.
The ability to renew themselves means that under the proper conditions, stem cells can provide a theoretically endless supply of cells for the body. After enough cells are produced, they can be cultivated to become specific specialized cells, which are then injected into the body to regenerate damaged tissues, regulate the immune system, and stimulate cell growth.
Stem cell therapy for Cerebral Palsy
How stem cells work in treating Cerebral Palsy?
Recent research has shown that stem cell treatment provides a reliable way to reverse the neurological damage associated with cerebral palsy. According to researchers, stem cells are capable of replacing damaged neurons, releasing cell growth factors, and degrading brain scarring.
Among the different types of stem cells that aid in treating cerebral palsy, Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the most popularly used due to their supreme potency. After being transplanted into the body, these cells will go through the following steps to repair the patient’s neurological defects:
- Crossing the blood-brain barrier.
- Homing to the injury site (chemotaxis).
- Communicating with the existing nerve cells and encouraging them self-repair. This is known as the paracrine & autocrine effects.
- Regulating the immune system (immune modulation).
- Differentiating into neurons and glia.
- Regenerating axons (axonogenesis).
- Producing neuroprotective factors.
- Promoting the adaptation of existing brain cells (neuroplasticity).
For allogeneic transplantation, MSCs are first collected from an infant or donor’s umbilical cord or bone marrow. After that, the doctor will inject them into the patient’s body. Depending on each person’s case, the injection will be performed either intravenously, or by a lumbar puncture.
After stem cell treatment, cerebral palsy patients may expect to observe the following improvements:
- Reducing inflammation response.
- Differentiating into neurons, microglia, and oligodendrocyte, hence promoting the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Supporting brain neuroprotection via the production of cytokines & growth factors such as glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), neurotrophin 3 (NT-3), neurotrophin 4/5 (NT 4/5).
- Generating new vessels, thereby providing hypoxic and injured tissues with more oxygen and nutrients.
- Reducing cell apoptosis (cellular death).
- Regaining motor & cognitive functions, vision and coordination.
- Increasing muscular strength and tone.
Where can I get Stem cell-based Cerebral Palsy treatment?
At GO.CARE, we co-operate with only the best stem cell clinics in Asia. Our partners have had years of experience in treating different diseases – including Cerebral Palsy. At some hospitals like Better Being Hospital and StemCells21, treatment protocol involves a combination of stem cell treatment and rehabilitation programs to maximize the success rate. These supportive therapies include acupuncture, aquatic therapy, occupational therapy, vitamin drips, and special diet plans.
For more information about our stem cell network, please click here.
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Cerebral Palsy: how could stem cells help? https://www.eurostemcell.org/cerebral-palsy-how-could-stem-cells-help. Accessed on September 11, 2019.
Current State of Stem Cell Treatments for Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Service Providers. https://www.canchild.ca/en/resources/276-current-state-of-stem-cell-treatments-for-cerebral-palsy-a-guide-for-patients-families-and-service-providers. Accessed on September 11, 2019.
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Cerebral Palsy (CP) / Stem Cell Therapy. https://globalstemcells.com/treatment/cerebral-palsy/. Accessed on September 11, 2019.
Stem Cell Treatment for Cerebral Palsy (CP). https://stemcelltreatmentnow.com/treatments/stem-cell-treatment-cerebral-palsy/. Accessed on September 11, 2019.