Cerebral Palsy and Cord Blood

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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. Clinical research studies are offering hope that regenerative therapies involving cord blood stem cells may prove beneficial in young patients with cerebral palsy.

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Each year 10,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. 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.

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The Evolution of Cord Blood’s Role in Cerebral Palsy Research

Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University Medical Center was the first to perform a reinfusion of a child's own cord blood for the treatment of cerebral palsy. Since then, the team at Duke has launched three clinical research studies to understand the potential for this regenerative therapy.


A Phase I clinical research study first demonstrated safety. A Phase II study followed to determine efficacy for children using their own umbilical cord blood for the treatment of spastic cerebral palsy. Study results, presented at the 57th American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting, showed that when patients were give an adequate dose of their own cord blood stem cells, their Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM-66) improved significantly.111  A third Cerebral Palsy study is now underway to determine safety when using stem cells from the cord blood of a sibling. Further details can be found on clinicaltrials.gov.