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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