- The child was left in a vegetative state after going into cardiac arrest
- Doctors said his future was bleak and his chances of survival were minimal
- But German doctors performed stem-cell therapy using frozen blood from his umbilical cord stored at birth and now he can walk, talk and smile again
- Experts said the results dispel ‘long-held doubts’ about stem cell therapy
Doctors claim to have successfully treated a child suffering with cerebral palsy with stem cells for the first time.
Just weeks after being given an intravenous stem cell treatment from umbilical cord blood, the symptoms of a boy who had been left in a vegetative state after a heart attack improved considerably. Within months he could talk and move.
The German doctors who carried out the treatment say the results of the treatment dispel ‘long-held doubts’ surrounding the effectiveness of stem cell therapy.
After going into cardiac arrest in November 2008, the unnamed two-year-old boy, known only as L.B., was left paralysed with severe brain damage and in a vegetative state.
Doctors warned his parents that his chances of survival were minimal.
They researched the options open to them. Until now, there has been no treatment for the cause of what is known as infantile cerebral palsy.
‘In their desperate situation, the parents searched the literature for alternative therapies,’ said Dr. Arne Jensen of the Campus Clinic Gynaecology, who carried out the new treatment.
‘They contacted us and asked about the possibilities of using their son’s cord blood, frozen at his birth.’
Nine weeks after the brain damage, on 27 January 2009, the doctors administered the prepared blood intravenously.
They studied the progress of recovery at two, five, 12, 24, 30, and 40 months after his brain injury.
Usually, the chances of survival after such a severe brain damage and more than 25 minutes duration of resuscitation are six per cent.
Months after the severe brain damage, the surviving children usually only exhibit minimal signs of consciousness.
‘The prognosis for the little patient was threatening if not hopeless,’ the Bochum medics say.
But just two months after treatment with the cord blood containing stem cells, his symptoms improved significantly.
Over the following months, the child learned to speak simple sentences and to move.
‘Our findings, along with those from a Korean study, dispel the long-held doubts about the effectiveness of the new therapy,’, said Dr. Arne Jensen of the Campus Clinic Gynaecology.
Within two months, the boy’s muscle spasticity decreased significantly. He was able to see, sit, smile, and to speak simple words again.
Around 40 months after treatment, the child was able to eat independently, walk with assistance, and form four-word sentences.
‘Of course, on the basis of these results, we cannot clearly say what the cause of the recovery is,’ Dr Jensen said.
‘It is, however, very difficult to explain these remarkable effects by purely symptomatic treatment during active rehabilitation.’
In animal studies, stem cells have been shown to migrate to damaged brain tissue.
In a previous study with rats, researchers revealed that cord blood cells migrate to the damaged area of the brain in large numbers within 24 hours of administration.
In March 2013, in a controlled study of 100 children, Korean doctors reported for the first time that they had successfully treated cerebral palsy with allogeneic cord blood.
Dr Jensen and his colleague Professor Hamelmann of the Department of Paediatrics at the Catholic Hospital Bochum (University Clinic of the RUB), reported their success in journal Case Reports in Transplantation.