Clinical Trials Offer Hope for Families Affected by Cerebral Palsy and Diabetes
Today, cord blood stem cells can be used to treat nearly 80 life-threatening diseases and are offering new hope to families affected by conditions that only years ago had no stem cell treatment options. A couple of the most exciting possibilities of cord blood stem cells lies in clinical trials now being conducted to determine whether a child’s own cord blood stem cells may be used to treat cerebral palsy and Type 1 Diabetes.
Cerebral palsy is a general term used to describe a group of neurological disorders that appear in early childhood and permanently affect muscle coordination and body movement. It is most often caused by brain injury or an abnormality in the brain resulting from infection or trauma sustained in the womb or during the early years of life. Each year 10,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.1 While prenatal care can reduce the risk that a child will develop some rare forms of cerebral palsy; the types of injuries that most often cause the disorder are usually not foreseeable or preventable. To learn more about cerebral palsy, visit the National Institutes of Health’s information page.
As few as five years ago, parents of affected children had little hope for treating this condition, but now a reinfusion of stem cells from the child’s own cord blood is being evaluated as a possible treatment. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University Medical Center was the first to perform a reinfusion of cord blood stem cells as a treatment for cerebral palsy. Thanks to a recent grant of $10.2 million dollars from the Robertson Foundation, Dr. Kurtzberg and her team have moved into a Phase II clinical trial, which, if successful, may help more people with cerebral palsy gain access to the therapy. (To learn more about the journeys of families participating in this trial read Lillian’s story or watch Cady’s story.)
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is a disease most often diagnosed in children and young adults that is characterized by an inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is thought that Type 1 Diabetes is caused by an immune response that induces white blood cells to attack the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. There is currently no treatment for the disease, only the possibility of management through daily insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly are also critical. People with diabetes may experience complications of the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels as a result of the disease, and are at a heightened risk of heart attacks. To learn more about Type 1 Diabetes, visit the resources available on the National Institutes of Health website.
A Phase I study at the University of Florida funded by the National Institute of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, was the first attempt to use cord blood stem cells as a therapy for the disease. By infusing cord blood stem cells into the body, scientists were hopeful they could slow down the immune system’s attack on pancreatic cells producing insulin and perhaps replace them. Early results of the pilot were encouraging; with some patients finding that they did not require as much insulin in their daily shots.2 The doctor leading the research is currently working on the second phase of the study. The hope is this research will provide new insight and may one day lead to a new treatment all people affected by Type 1 Diabetes.
The Importance of Family Banking
Because both of these revolutionary treatments use autologous infusions, meaning the patient’s own cord blood stem cells are used, they are only possible for those who have retained access to their child’s cord blood by saving it with a family bank such as ViaCord. As scientists continue to investigate therapeutic possibilities for cord blood stem cells, it is possible that cord blood may be used to treat even more diseases in the future. To find out more about the potential of cord blood stem cells speak with your OB/GYN or explore the ViaCord website.
REFERENCES 1. United Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Fact Sheet 2. Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters. Cord blood helped in type 1 diabetes: study http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2528805620070625