DAVID GRANOVSKY

New trial tests cord blood in regenerating neuro damage

In STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS on March 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm
New trial tests cord blood in regenerating neuro damage

By Joe Pangburn, Inside Tucson Business
Published on Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cord Blood Registry and Tucson Medical Center want to help newborns at-risk for neurological injury avoid the pain of diseases such as cerebral palsy.

The two organizations, along with the Save the Cord Foundation and the Watching Over Mothers and Babies Foundation, have begun Newborn Possibilities – a first-of-its-kind program which may offer new options for children who are at risk of developing cerebral palsy.

For every 1,000 children born in the U.S. today, two to three are at risk for developing cerebral palsy because of injuries to the brain that may have occurred prior to or during birth. There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. Premature and underweight babies have a higher risk of neurological damage and are examples of the kind of children who  would be eligible to enroll in this program.

The delivering doctor would explain to the mother the risk and the program, but it is the parent’s decision to have the cord blood saved or not.

Tucson Medical Center (TMC) began collecting the newborn cord blood stem cells of children born at risk for neurological damage last fall. About 240 samples have been collected. Cord Blood Registry (CBR) anticipates collecting 780 samples in the first year of the program at no cost to the families of the children.

If a child is diagnosed with the neurological damage – after around a year to a year and a half – he or she may be eligible to receive a new treatment being researched under approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using the child’s own cord blood stem cells.

“This program is a way for us to provide a safety net to children at-risk for cerebral palsy and other forms of neonatal brain injury while helping to advance the science of regenerative medicine,” said Tom Moore, chief executive officer of CBR. “CBR and our collaborators in this unique program share a commitment to advance cord blood stem cell research, expand education about the value of cord blood banking, and improve outcomes for children with neurological disabilities.”

A growing body of published data suggests that a child’s own newborn stem cells from the umbilical cord may play an important role in helping the body repair damage to nerve and brain tissue. In studies using animals, research has shown that cord blood stem cells have the ability to migrate to the site of injury in the brain and, in certain cases, have been shown to prevent neurological deterioration and even cause cognitive improvement.

This research has led the FDA to approve a human clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of using a child’s own newborn blood stem cells to treat cerebral palsy.

The first FDA-approved human clinical trial evaluating the use of a child’s own newborn stem cells in the treatment of cerebral palsy has just been initiated at the Medical College of Georgia. CBR is the only cord blood bank to participate in this trial to ensure consistency and quality of the stem cells used.

The procedure is a 15-minute transfusion from the child’s stem cells. Moore said he is working with several researchers in Tucson to establish a local trial working with cord blood stem cells so families won’t have to travel to Georgia for the procedure.

Moore also said some of the kids will never present any neurological problems. But that most trauma in children’s lives happens in the first four years and that the cord blood stem cells could be used in cases where the child has a near-death experience that causes neurological damage.

“If we can keep a kid out of a wheelchair or help restore functions in their brain, that is the kind of thing that really gets me jazzed up.” Moore said.

Contact reporter Joe Pangburn at jpangburn@azbiz.com or (520) 295-4259.

Copyright © 2010 Inside Tucson Business

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