Children to receive umbilical cord blood in world first cerebral palsy trial

Australian children with cerebral palsy will be infused with umbilical cord blood, in a world first medical trial at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

The study hopes to find that stem cells from cord blood can repair brain injury that leads to cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability of Australian children.

The trial, led by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, has started recruiting children with cerebral palsy whose families have chosen to store a sibling’s cord blood at private banks.

Professor Iona Novak of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute said the importance of the study could not be underestimated.

“Unfortunately we hear of many Australian children with (cerebral palsy) and their families travelling overseas to receive unregulated stem cell treatments at great cost,” Ms Novak said. “This study, using cord blood which has been stored under Australian government-regulated conditions, is an important first step towards potentially improving treatment.”

Children aged 1 to 10 with cerebral palsy (a series of disabilities associated with movement and posture) will receive infusions of cord blood rich in stem cells, which have the ability to develop into other cells in the body.

The two-year study will investigate any changes in motor skills in these children.

Melbourne mother, Carly Stewart, said she was glad she chose to store the cord blood of siblings to her eight-year-old Lachlan, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth.

“We are excited about this Australian trial commencing and the promising future of this much-talked about treatment,” Stewart said. “I encourage other families to store their children’s cord blood.”

The foundation and Cell Care, Australia’s largest private cord blood bank, are funding the study.

Researchers will be unable to access cord blood from a public bank, which collects blood to treat blood disorders such as leukaemia, and cannot be used for untested new therapies.

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Bring back the big names

STAR BILLING: Emile Heskey scored nine goals and was instrumental in average crowd numbers at Hunter Stadium increasing by nearly 2000 in his first season at the Jets. Picture: Getty ImagesGREG Inglis, Jonathan Thurston, Sam Burgess, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith. It took just one round of the competition tospell out the advantage that the NRL has over the A-League.

Compare them to the A-League’s best, Aaron Mooy, Alex Brosque, even imports Bruno Fornaroli, Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha.Unfortunately our players don’t have the same traction, the same star billing. Yes, they are household names in football but how many non-A-League fans would know them if they walked throughthe Hunter St Mall.

Therein lies the battle facing the A-League in its attemptto win the hearts and minds of the Australian public, let alone luremulti-national corporations.

Don’t get me wrong, thequality of football in the A-League has been good. There is just not enough people watching it.One of the answers is marquees. Not just blue-ribbon players, but bignames who will be familiar to theaverage Joe in the street.Only two seasons ago, Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono set the league alight. On the field they lived up to their reputation. Off it their presence was immeasurable. In Heskey’sfirst season at the Jets the average home crowdjumpednearly 2000.

This week Football Federation Australia unveiled a four-year strategic plan. Central to the plan is a treasure chest or fighting fund tolurebig names to the A-League. Hallelujah!The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the next broadcast deal.

Why take four years?Get on the front foot. Act now.Rather than spend money on FFA executives flying first-class and needless camps for national youth teams, make the money count.I’m not suggesting wethrow cash around like they are in China. The US Major League Soccer is an example we could follow. In the MLS clubs work together to bring out a top player to each franchise. They realise a strong league with recognised stars is good for everyone. Good for the bottom line.I’m not talking about 40-year-olds past theirexpiry dateand here for a holiday. The A-league hasmoved beyond that.You need players who have just tipped over from their best.

In recent seasons, clubs havefocused on findinghidden gems – another BroichorBerisha. For every diamond there are10 rocks.Likewise there is an argument that imports shouldn’t take the spot of local kids. I’m all for local talent.If they are good enough, they will finda place in any 23 man roster.

The marquees I’m talking about are proven performers. They come with a name and a profile. Not to mention the experience and professionalism they bring to a dressing room

Imagine a league that featured the likes ofNicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Robbie Keane, RioFerdinand and Arjen Robben,

The rights would skyrocket. You couldn’t keep the fans away.

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Ayman Omran, son of Melbourne Muslim leader Sheikh Mohammed Omran, dies in Syria

Sheikh Mohammed Omran, photographed in 2004, is the leader of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association of Australia. Photo: Ken IrwinThe son of a leading Melbourne-based Islamic sheik has died in unexplained circumstances in Syria, while providing “humanitarian aid” in the war zone.

The death of Ayman Omran was confirmed on Wednesday in a statement by the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association of Australia, of which his father Sheikh Mohammed Omran – also known as Abu Ayman – is the leader. The statement did not address an unconfirmed report that he died in a bombing.

“It is with deep sorrow and sincere regret we confirm the sad news of our beloved brother Ayman Omran has passed away,” the association’s vice-president Sheikh Kalid Issa said in the statement.

“Ayman travelled as a volunteer to provide humanitarian aid, an act consistent with his soft heartedness and caring demeanour.”

The association, which preaches a strict form of Sunni religion, asked the media and public to respect the privacy of Mr Omran’s family.

It is believed Sheikh Omran is overseas and was told of his son’s death on Tuesday night.

Sheikh Issa said the association, with centres in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, had a policy that travelling to the Syrian war zone was “to be avoided”.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Duncan Lewis told a Senate hearing last month that up to 49 Australians may have been killed in Syria and Iraq during the current conflict there.

Mr Lewis said 110 Australians were overseas fighting and almost 200 Australians were actively supporting the terrorist group Islamic State at home.

“The demographic is young. If I was talking to you a couple of years ago typically we would have been talking about people in their late 20s, early 30s,” he said.

“By the start or middle of last year we were … down to the teens.

“Untrained and naive young Australians are being drawn into the conflict and finding themselves in what I would describe as highly expendable, highly dangerous positions of low importance amid the [IS] effort,” he said.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the Australian government could not usually confirm reports of deaths in Syria and Iraq because of the danger in those countries.

It is also unable to provide consular assistance such as help to repatriate remains.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Tips for Australian visitors

Hogwarts castle, with a view of Flight of the Hippogriff, Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster.The Wizarding World of Harry Potter officially opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 7. For Pottermaniacs looking to be among the first to see it, Australia and New Zealand Universal Studios Hollywood representative Tristan Freedman offers these tips:

Best time of the day and week to visit? 

Typically, the best time is midweek, when the Los Angeles locals aren’t visiting. It is also really worth checking if your visit is going to coincide with any US school vacations and try to avoid weekends and public holidays.

Can they pre-order tickets?

Absolutely. Universal Studios Hollywood works directly with all of Australia’s travel agencies, so customers can purchase their tickets before departing for the US. Particularly, once Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens, it is highly recommended that people purchase tickets ahead of their travels.

Is there a way to avoid the big queues with a VIP access or some such?

The two premium ticketing options that are really popular with Australians are the Front of Line ticket and the VIP Experience. Front of Line, as the name suggests, gets you one-time Front of Line access to all the major rides and attractions. The VIP Experience is a full-day experience with all the bells and whistles. You get a VIP lounge arrival, a private Studio Tour (where you actually get to walk through working sets and sound stages), and lots more.

How long should they plan for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? 

For Aussies, Universal Studios Hollywood is a fantastic one-day experience. If you’ve got Front of Line or VIP Experience tickets, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy all of the rides and attractions. Of course, if you’ve got Harry Potter fans in tow, then two days might be a good option.

And how about packages for accommodation? 

There are two fantastic accommodation options within Universal City. The Sheraton Universal and Hilton Universal are within stone’s throw of the park entry. It’s also worth noting that Hollywood itself is connected to Universal City by the Los Angeles Metro for just $1.75. iTravel has packages starting at $379 a person twin share for two nights’ accommodation at the Garland Los Angeles, plus entry to Universal Studios Hollywood. Contact iTravel on (02) 8880 7540.

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Brumbies wait on Ita Vaea as Tom Staniforth edges closer to comeback game

Ita Vaea has been ruled out of the Brumbies’ trip to Perth, but is expected to travel with the team to South Africa. Photo: Graham Tidy Brumbies back-rower Jarrad Butler is set to be injected into the starting team to play the Western Force. Photo: Graham Tidy

The ACT Brumbies remain hopeful powerhouse forward Ita Vaea will be able to link up with the team in South Africa after having surgery on a dislocated finger, which has ruled him out of the clash against the Western Force on Friday night.

But Vaea’s absence has opened the door for a one-game rookie to make his comeback almost two years after his debut Brumbies match.

Lock Tom Staniforth is set to be included on the Brumbies’ bench to play the Force with Jarrad Butler expected to move into the No. 8 jersey following Vaea’s injury and Rory Arnold to be recalled to the second row.

Canberra junior Staniforth hasn’t played a Super Rugby match since being plucked out of his job as a part-time pub glassy in April, 2014 to play against the Queensland Reds.

The 21-year-old has toiled away at training and will be rewarded 700 days after bursting on to the scene as a teenager.

The Brumbies flew to Perth on Wednesday night aiming to continue their perfect start to the Super Rugby campaign after beating the Wellington Hurricanes and NSW Waratahs in the opening two rounds.

Vaea and Blake Enever are the only injury concerns in the squad, with Robbie Coleman also flying to Perth and James Dargaville recovering from a knee problem.

Vaea will have more tests later this week before a decision is made on whether he will be fit in time to play the Cape Town Stormers or Free State Cheetahs.

The 27-year-old was back at training on Wednesday but restricted to fitness duties as he aims to rejoin the squad for part of its three-week tour.

The Force threw a curve ball at the Brumbies before kick-off, rotating out some of their key players and injecting Wallabies workhorse Ben McCalman to the starting side for the first time this season.

McCalman is set to match up on highly-rated forward Butler, who is on Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s radar for future selection, while Jordan Smiler can also inject himself in the back row.

“The Force have certainly tweaked a few things and they’ve got some things up their sleeve,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.

“We’re not putting too much emphasis on them. It’s not that we’re underestimating them. It’s just the fact we’ve got a lot to work on. Our focus is what we need to do to improve from last weekend.”

The Force drifted dramatically in betting markets on Wednesday afternoon when speculation swirled that they were expected to rest key players from the match.

Coach Michael Foley said earlier this week, “we don’t think anybody will rate us a chance but that’s OK” when asked about the contest against the Brumbies.

Foley has shifted scrumhalf Alby Mathewson to the bench with former Brumby Ian Prior getting the No. 9 jersey, while hooker Nathan Charles and lock Steve Mafi have been dropped to the bench.

But the Brumbies are refusing to be lulled into a false sense of security, adamant they have plenty of room for improvement despite scoring 11 tries in two games and sitting at the top of the table.

“We’re still trying to find our shape in attack a bit better and there are lots of little attention to detail thing that are so important in our game and they haven’t been quite where they needed to be,” Larkham said.

“The game against the Waratahs was tough and we found a way to win, we kept our focus and managed to defend really well. You’ll always make mistakes, but it’s the way you recover or move on.”


Friday: ACT Brumbies v Western Force at nib Stadium, Perth, 10.05pm (AEDT). TV: Live on Fox Sports 2.

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