Stem cell therapy is a promising treatment option for children with cerebral palsy, yet it’s still in its infant stages and only allowed in two states in the nation. However, as research continues, there may be more options in the future.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are primitive cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types, and in turn, form different types of tissues. There are two different types of stem cells, which include:
Adult Stem Cells
Adult stem cells are found in people who are already grown and are capable of supplying new cells in order to repair damaged tissues.
Embryonic Stem Cells
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells found in the early embryonic period. ESCs develop in the mass of the blastocyst and are able to spread and grow into different cell types.
What is a Stem Cell Transplant On Children With Cerebral Palsy?
During a stem cell transplant, a physician injects stem cells into the child either intravenously or via a lumbar puncture in the spinal cord area. The hope is that the stem cells will develop into nerve cells and in an area where the cells can develop connections with other cells. This is necessary in order for the treatment to be beneficial.
Furthermore, once the cells make connections with other cells, they need to be able to deliver messages to the muscles that control movement in order for the treatment to be successful.
Physical therapy is almost always recommended after stem cell therapy. Medical experts state that although it makes it difficult to know if it’s stem cell therapy or physical that worked best for treatment, the combination of both gives the child the best chances of success.
Current Animal Research on Stem Cell Therapy
Currently, there are numerous different types of research and strategies being worked on in order to find the most effective stem cell therapy treatment for children with cerebral palsy. Current research includes scientists and physicians testing many different types of stem cells in animals with brain damage.
Some studies have shown that stem cells can reduce symptoms and reduce animal brain damage. However, the reason this happens is still not quite understood. Furthermore, since animals are not human, the results are never an exact match.
Stem Cell Research to Learn More About Cerebral Palsy
Pluripotent stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, are being studied and used to help create different types of brain cells intended to figure out exactly how cerebral palsy works. In turn, medical professionals are hoping it can bring new and improved forms of treatment.
Drugs to Help Target Stem Cells in Children’s Brains
Another possible treatment option currently being researched is developing new medications that encourage the child’s own stem cells to repair as much damaged tissue as possible. This research is currently in its clinical trial phase, where the main focus is figuring out of this type of treatment would be safe for all patients.
Scientists suggest that it would probably take a combination of other treatments in order to make targeting stems cells work the best, but more research is needed to be certain.
Keep in mind, as mentioned early, stem cell research for cerebral palsy is still in its infant stages. Although it shows promise, more research is needed to understand it more before it becomes a universal treatment for children with cerebral palsy.