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Could autologous cord blood stem cell transplantation treat cerebral palsy?

ABSTRACT

The young human brain is highly plastic and thus early brain lesions can lead to aberrant development of connectivity and mapping of functions. This is why initially in cerebral palsy only subtle changes in spontaneous movements are seen after the time of lesion, followed by a progressive evolution of a movement disorder over many months and years. Thus we propose that interventions to treat cerebral palsy should be initiated as soon as possible in order to restore the nervous system to the correct developmental trajectory. One such treatment might be autologous stem cell transplantation either intracerebrally or intravenously. All babies come with an accessible supply of stem cells, the umbilical cord, which can supply cells that could theoretically replace missing neural cell types, or act indirectly by supplying trophic support or modulating inflammatory responses to hypoxia/ischaemia. However, for such radical treatment to be proposed, it is necessary to be able to detect and accurately predict the outcomes of brain injury from a very early age. This article reviews our current understanding of perinatal injuries that lead to cerebral palsy, how well modern imaging might predict outcomes, what stem cells are yielded from umbilical cord blood and experimental models of brain repair using stem cells.