Cerebral palsy is the most prevalent neurological disorder of childhood, affecting 17 million people worldwide. It is estimated that 1 in 400 babies are born with this condition in the UK who require lifelong care as it is a lifelong disability with severity that increases with age.
Treatment can help children with cerebral palsy, however, the condition cannot be cured. Advances are being made in research into stem cells and how they may hold the key to treatment of certain symptoms of cerebral palsy, and Smart Cells are proud to be part of this process.
Children with cerebral palsy have a range of physical and cognitive impairments which affect movement, coordination and occasionally cognitive ability. Although the exact cause of cerebral palsy is not known, a brain injury or problems occurring in different parts of the brain when it is still developing during birth, shortly after birth or in the first few years of life are thought to be the basis of the disability.
Types of cerebral palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy. It affects 80-90% of people whose symptoms include painful muscle spasms. 15% of people with cerebral palsy have athetoid cerebral palsy, which causes involuntary movement in the face torso and limbs, with their speech and feeding also being affected.
Ataxic cerebral palsy is the least common type; only 5% of people have this form. It causes problems with balance and coordination because the ability to control voluntary movement is impaired.
People whose cerebral palsy damage is not confined to one location, have mixed cerebral palsy, which is indicative of several brain injuries. Two-thirds of children with cerebral palsy have difficulty moving one or both arms. This can have an impact on eating, dressing, writing, holding and catching items or merely playing with toys. 1 in 3 children are unable to walk and are confined to wheelchairs, while 1 in 4 are unable to talk.
Additionally, the majority of children with cerebral palsy experience pain and 1 in 4 have epilepsy. Stem cells and the treatment of cerebral palsy Smart Cells have released 20 cord blood units processed in their UK laboratory for varying conditions, with 6 of these units used in the treatment of children with cerebral palsy. Cord blood supplied by Smart Cells is currently enabling ongoing treatment for a little girl with cerebral palsy.
Research indicates that the stem cells found within umbilical cord blood can migrate to areas of cell damage in the brain, and may have the potential to replace dead or damaged cells. Currently, clinical trials are focusing on cord blood as the source of these stem cells, with initial trials showing that stem cell treatment for cerebral palsy is safe. This is a highly important first step. The next phase is underway to determine the cell numbers and types that would be most effective. Effective treatments would help children lead better lives with their symptoms vastly improved, resulting in less pain and better control over their independence, without the need of or allowing for reduced need for long-term medical and supportive care.
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